Brian Jefferson (Geography and GIScience)

Brian Jefferson

Junior Research Fellow, 2017-2019

Digitize and Punish: Digital Cartographies of Policing and Racialized Space Economy
While critical attention has recently turned to racialized police violence in US cities, another quiet development in urban policing is taking place. Police departments across the US have begun to wed database software with geographic information systems to represent crime cartographically. My project analyzes this development using theoretical tools drawn from critical urban geography, critical geographic information systems theory, and critical ethnic studies. Through interviews with GIScientists, analysis of city technical documents, and participant observation at police–community meetings in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and Englewood, Chicago, I chronicle how computerized crime maps ensure that negatively racialized surplus populations, the places they inhabit, and the social problems that afflict them are only representable to state authorities and the public as objects of policing and punishment. I also analyze how the pervasive spread of computerized crime maps across cyberspace and through handheld digital devices adapts public perceptions of crime to that of the policing apparatus, and mobilizes the public as appendages of police surveillance. By tracing these phenomena through my distinct combination of critical theories, my project aims to cast a heretofore unexplored interface of racialized social control and neoliberal space economy into sharp relief.

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