June 2, 2006 By Merrill Douglas
The mapping system also helps the OCDV fine-tune outreach programs to make them more effective by better targeting New York's immigrant populations.
"When we go into different areas, either if it's a one-time outreach or if it's a program that we're looking to launch in a particular area of the city, [the GIS] is really helpful for us to understand what the primary language needs are in that area and to plan accordingly," Weber said.
At Brooklyn's Family Justice Center, one of the OCDV's partner organizations, the maps help employees understand where clients come from and how the center might reach more people. Opened in July 2005, the Family Justice Center is housed in the same building as the Brooklyn District Attorney's office.
The center brings together the domestic violence unit of the prosecutor's office and its counseling staff, as well as representatives of 13 community groups, six faith-based groups, five groups providing civil attorneys and several volunteer programs. The center offers a one-stop center for domestic violence victims and their families, Weber said.
"The first map that Tracy created for me was a mapping of the ZIP codes of origin of all our clients," said Amy Barasch, executive director of the Family Justice Center. Another analysis compared ZIP codes of origin with DIR data, to see if clients who use the center's services tend to come from areas with the highest rates of reported domestic violence.
They do, and that's not surprising, Barasch said.
"Because we are located with the DA's office, most of our cases right now are victims who have criminal court cases. So it makes sense they're coming from the areas in which more domestic violence crime was reported."
Beyond victims of domestic violence already working with the courts, the center is trying to reach people who have not yet lodged complaints. If it succeeds, future maps may show visits to the center outstripping DIRs, but that sort of analysis is complicated, Barasch cautioned.
"Maybe we'll do such good outreach when we bring people in, they will be reporting the crimes, and it will just mean the reported crime data will shift with us," she said. "I don't know. But we would expect to see some kind of shift."
Whatever the maps show, Barasch said, she and her staff anticipate using them to evaluate the success of future community outreach efforts.
"Let's say we make a big push to do outreach with the hospitals," she said. "We could then try to map how many people from each ZIP code came in, and how many of them were referred by a hospital."
Barasch will also use the GIS to try to find out why the percentage of Spanish-speaking clients at the Family Justice Center is disproportionately higher than the surrounding community.
Besides using the maps for in-depth data analysis, the center relies on them as presentation tools. When Barasch visits a police precinct, she brings a map tracking the number of visits to a specific center, and in some cases, urges local agencies to make more referrals.
"We collect a lot of data here, and sometimes people's eyes glaze over if you just give them the numbers," Barasch said. "The visual can be a really helpful alternative way to see information."
Since the center has been open for less than a year, Barasch and her staff are just starting to take advantage of the OCDV's maps and haven't yet explored all the possibilities they offer, though that's something that she plans to do.
Weber said a map has much more impact than a series of tables when the OCDV makes presentations to the City Council or community groups.
"One of our goals in this office," Weber said, "is to provide information to the public, stakeholders and others about the scope of domestic violence -- where it's occurring, how often it's occurring -- and to provide education and information."
You may use or reference this story with attribution and a link to