Keeping Canada Prepared: Careers in Public Safety GIS & Data Analytics

Keeping Canada Prepared: Careers in Public Safety GIS & Data Analytics Blog Header
Keeping Canada Prepared: Careers in Public Safety GIS & Data Analytics Blog Header

Wherever you look, predictive analytics are en vogue. Baseball teams handicap a player's future value before negotiating their contracts, while corporations facing litigation use computer-generated performance metrics to decide which lawyers to hire. There is more opportunity than ever for skilled data analysts to make an impact in the fields that interest them most, and public safety is no exception. Analysts utilize geographic information systems (GIS) to understand public safety through techniques like crime mapping and natural disaster profiling. Due to constantly developing field, Wilfrid Laurier University has created a 100% online Graduate Diploma in GIS & Data Analytics that provides students with the relevant skills they need to prepare for a career in public safety.

GIS allow analysts to consider the relationships between factors affecting public safety (crime, national emergencies, natural disasters), and the places they occur. This country was actually home to the world's first operating GIS, the Canada Geographic Information System (CGIS), which was developed in the 1960s to help with land-use and environmental impact management. It wasn't long before Public Safety Canada began to use this technology to assess emergency preparedness. Any time you see new infrastructure designed to mitigate hazards like floodways or levies, you can be assured that the project began with analysts working on a GIS model to account for the potential threat.

Many program graduates choose to focus on careers as crime analysts. Crime analysts work with Public Safety Canada, police, and other government departments to create crime maps. These maps help police monitor where crimes happen, and understand why. When crime mapping was first developed, it was used primarily as a tool to help police chiefs optimize their resources, by posting more officers to high crime neighbourhoods for example, or identifying patterns in criminal behaviour. While these applications are still important today, much like environmental hazard mapping, crime mapping is at its most powerful when analysts use it to understand why crimes occur, and take steps to prevent them.

Alongside the requisite technical skills, Laurier graduates from the online graduate diploma program in GIS & Data Analytics learn different theoretical positions on criminology. Mapping is now used to illustrate cycles of incarceration and recidivism, associate criminal activity to social conditions, and help residents understand crime in their own communities. For example, in 2009 data analysts with the Edmonton Police Service developed the Neighbourhood Crime Mapping online tool, which provided information about crime at the neighbourhood level to the public. By giving stakeholders access to this information, it helped them gain a better understanding of public safety decision-making, and improved the police department's transparency.

As technology continues to advance, there is always a need for new generations of data analysts in the public safety sector. Recent graduates bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the field, expanding the applications of existing tech, and pushing research and development forward. Whether you end up using geographic information systems for public works risk assessments, or working as an analyst for a city studying the best possible allocation of public health resources, you'll find your Wilfrid Laurier University Graduate Diploma in GIS & Data Analytics has prepared you well for a career that makes a genuinely positive impact on society.