CCBC Student Places Second in National Geospatial Applications Competition

Feb 09, 2017 | by Jacquie Lucy | 443.840.4668 (office) | 443.761.2482 (cell)

Mapping project examines the correlation between green space and homicide locations in Baltimore City.

Baltimore County, MD — Geospatial Applications is a science that teams space-age technology with the ancient art of mapmaking to show geographic or spatial relationships. CCBC second-year student Molly Finch of Baltimore City, Md. employed this mapping method for her ongoing project to exploring the influence of urban design on the likelihood of a homicide occurrence. She used data on the location and incidence of homicides in Baltimore City between 2010-2015 in relation to green space or trees in the areas. Molly’s project, “The Power of Place: Areas of Influence for Baltimore City Homicides (2010-2015),” earned her second place at the GIS-Pro2016: URISA's (Urban and Regional Information Systems Association) 54th Annual Conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, held in November 2016.

The Power of Place: Areas of Influence for Baltimore City Homicides (2010-2015)” competed with projects by two graduate students: “Automated Layout of Origin-Destination Flow Maps: U.S. County-to-County Migration 2009–2013” by Daniel Stephen of Oregon State University, and “Using New Methods: Finding Downhill Runs in Florida” by Joshua Sheldon of the University of Central Arkansas. The initial round of the competition was judged by the URISA Vanguard Cabinet made up of young GIS Professionals under the age of 35. A panel of experienced GIS professionals judged the formal presentations at GIS-Pro 2016 in November. Cash prizes, conference registration, and URISA student membership (followed by a free year of Young Professional URISA membership upon graduation) were awarded to all of the finalists. To access her map, double click on the link

According to Finch, “The purpose of the project was to determine the type of land use found within the 400-foot radius circles or buffers, and the type found around each homicide location. I specifically focused on the 26 land-use designations as listed by Baltimore City Planning Department and the location of healthy green space.”

The results, as seen in Finch’s mapping, show that for 1,426 homicides occurring in Baltimore City over the five-year study period, the most common type of land use designation within the buffered area (calculated by totaling the amount of area that each of the 26 land use designation took up compared to the total buffered area) was medium density residential land use, which took up 54.3% of the total buffered area. When it came to healthy green space only 11.17% of the total buffered area included this type of land. This means that the most common land use type around a homicide location was residential housing and on average there was <1.0% (less than 1.0 percent) of healthy green vegetation.

Finch also used an Optimized Hot Spot Analysis tool to understand the statistical significance of where homicides were occurring when compared to each other. The Optimize Hot Spot Analysis tool takes all the data points (or locations of homicide incidents) and then compares each point to the proximity of similar points to determine hot spots, or areas where the proximity of similar points could make it more likely for an incident to occur then other areas. Statistically significant data points are then clustered into 3 groups called confidence level, and the higher the confidence level the more significant this area is. The project results found that out of all the homicides, 643 were statistically significant when considering the location of each homicide incident relative to each other and the likelihood of a homicide to occur. When grouped by confidence level there were 410 incidents that were statistically significant at the 99 percent confidence level (less than 1 percent chance that the placement is random); a total of 203 incidents that were statistically significant at the 95 percent confidence level (less than 5 percent chance that the placement is random); and a total of 30 incidents that were statistically significant at the 90 percent confidence level (less than 10 percent chance that the placement is random).

Finch has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology and Environmental Sciences from Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C. She was attracted to CCBC’s Geospatial Applications program because it was the only one that allowed her to go to school part-time while she worked full-time and it was the most cost-effective. She started the CCBC program in the spring of 2015 and has one class to complete to graduate in June 2017. Last year, she garnered third place in the GeoTech Center/URISA National Geospatial Skills Competition for her project “Shading Out the Gun: How Baltimore City Greenspace Relates to 2013 Homicides.”

According to Scott Jeffrey, professor in the Geospatial Applications Program, “The CCBC Geospatial Applications program, offered at CCBC Catonsville, provides comprehensive instruction in geographic information systems (GIS), photogrammetry and remote sensing and Global Positioning/Global Navigation Systems (GPS/GNSS.” At CCBC, we see the workforce demand in this field as expanding exponentially in business, government and industry for both the Geospatial technician (entry-level scientists) and the Geospatial Analysts (experienced managers and scientists).”

For more information about this project, contact Professor Scott Jeffrey at or 443-840-5936.K

For information about the CCBC Geospatial Applications Certificate Program, contact Tom Barrett, coordinator of CADD and the Geospatial Applications Program, School of Technology, Art and Design, at or 443-840-4298.


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