GEOG 597
Geospatial Crime Analysis

GEOG 597 Syllabus


This syllabus is divided into several sections. You can read it sequentially by scrolling down the length of the document or by clicking on any of the links below to “jump” to a specific section.

Dr. Greg Thomas
Department of Geography, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

Course Format: Online

Office Hours: Online, by appointment

Contacting your instructor: Rather than emailing questions directly to me, I encourage you to post any question that you would raise your hand to ask in a traditional class to the applicable discussion forum. Asking questions on our forums can benefit all students in that everyone will see the discussions and answers regarding class questions.

For questions which are more personal in nature, please contact me through the course email system and I will respond ASAP.

NOTE: I read and respond to email and discussion forums at least once per day during the work week (Monday through Friday) and as time permits on weekends (though please don't depend on this).

Course Overview


GEOG 597: Geospatial Crime Analysis is a special topics course offered for the experienced and aspiring geospatial intelligence professional. In this course, students will research and examine the geospatial elements of crime, and apply, in a legal and ethical manner, geospatial tools and techniques in the analysis of criminal activity.

Crime occurs at some place and time. For this reason, the analysis of geospatial data is critical for understanding, analyzing, and investigating criminal activity. The objective of this course is to research how geospatial intelligence analysis and spatial data science can be used in criminal investigations. Geospatial information can assist in determining locations of criminal suspects, identifying geographic patterns or hotspots of crime, evaluating potential vulnerable locations for criminal activity, assessing threats of criminal elements such as gangs, terrorists, and organized crime, and analyzing trends of illegal trafficking in drugs, weapons, money, and people.

This course takes an all-crimes approach in advancing the field of geospatial analysis methods, tools, and techniques in the understanding of criminal activity.  Through case studies, peer reviews, and team assessments, students will explore the state of the discipline and evaluate and develop new approaches to advance the geospatial analysis of crime.


This course is available to any graduate student. The goal is to have a class actively interested in the topic and as varying as possible with respect to age, gender, nationality, professional experience, and education. 

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Course Goals and Outcomes

At the end of this course, students will:

  • Understand the geospatial elements of crime
  • Explore geospatial tools and techniques in the analysis of crime
  • Evaluate and develop approaches to advance the field of geospatial criminal intelligence analysis

Required Course Materials

Necessary materials are presented online through our course website, in Canvas, or are available through the Penn State Libraries. In order to access all materials, you need to have an active Penn State Access Account user ID and password (used to access the online course resources). If you have any questions about obtaining or activating your Penn State Access Account, please contact the Outreach Helpdesk (link is external).

Assignments and Grading

I keep the Canvas gradebook up to date, so any time you're curious about where you stand in the class, you should visit the Grades tab. Canvas also allows you to enter hypothetical grades on remaining assignments to get an idea of likely course grade outcomes. If you have any questions about a grade you've received on an assignment, contact me via Canvas Inbox. Deliverable (assignment) percentages are provided in the below course schedule. Detailed instructions are located within the online course materials.

Grading Scale

Grading Scale
Grade Percent
A 93–100%
A- 90–92.9%
B+ 87–89.9%
B 83–86.9%
B- 80–82.9%
C+ 77–79.9%
C 70–76.9%
D 60–69.9%
F <60%

Course Schedule

It is your responsibility to be aware of deadlines for assignments for this course. You can also refer to the Canvas Calendar for deadlines, and if you have any questions along the way, just ask.

Lessons are open and assignments are due the following Tuesday at 11:59 pm, eastern time. You have an entire week to complete the readings and other associated activities. See the first page of each lesson for specific details. Anything not submitted by the assigned due date will be considered late and points will be deducted (see Course Policies for details).

Course length: 10 weeks

In addition to the brief summary of tasks below, you will also wish to make note of the following dates for the webinars that will be held in Zoom.

Below, you will find a brief summary of the tasks for this seminar and the associated time frames. Assignment information will be located on each lesson's checklist - so you will need to check there for the full set of details and deliverables. Sometimes, the details for each lesson can change, and it's possible that the syllabus may not be updated as quickly as the lesson checklists, so always check specific lesson checklists for the latest details. This course is 10 weeks in length, with an orientation week preceding the official start of the course.

Make sure to refer to the Canvas Calendar for Assignment Due dates and links.

Lesson 1: Introduction to intelligence, geospatial intelligence, and the intelligence process
  • Read the Online Lecture Notes
  • Deliverable #1
      Lesson 2: Legal and ethical issues
      • Read the Online Lecture Notes
      • Deliverable #2
      Lesson 3: Geographic perspectives of crime
      • Read the Online Lecture Notes
      • Deliverable #3
      Lesson 4: Geospatial tools and technology
      • Read the Online Lecture Notes
      • Deliverable #4
      Lesson 5: Examination and evaluation of analytic techniques
      • Read the Online Lecture Notes
      • Deliverable #5
      Lesson 6: Advancing the discipline through a case study
      • Read the Online Lecture Notes
      • Deliverable #6
      Lesson 7: Independent research project
      • Read the Online Lecture Notes
      • Deliverable #7

      Course Policies

      Late Work

      One of the many advantages to taking courses online is that it affords you a degree of flexibility in when and how you complete your assignments that might be more challenging to achieve in a face-to-face classroom setting. However, taking courses online does not mean that you've got the autonomy to do and submit the work when you wish.

      In order for us to move through the material as a group, it's important that each of you completes your assignments on time. Late is defined as submitted anytime after 11:59 pm on the Tuesday on which the assignment is due. This means if you procrastinate and turn it in at 12:05 am on Wednesday morning, it is late.

      • Assignments will be assessed a 10% penalty for each 24 hour period late they are (i.e., 12:00 am on Wednesday through 11:59 pm on Wednesday is 10% and so on).

      Life happens. Inevitably, you will have some legitimate situation or emergency arise during the semester that is going to hinder your ability to complete work on time. You should always communicate these occurrences to your instructor. It takes but a minute to call or email and give me a courtesy heads up. I'm much more willing to work with you if I know what's going on. Falling off the radar for an extended period of time and then later requesting additional time retroactively is not the appropriate way to communicate a problem with your instructor.  Let me know what's happening when it's happening; that gives me the best chance of helping you out.  This is also why you are only required to participate in 10 of the 12 discussion assignments.  

      Procrastination doesn't pay - Technology is far from perfect, and, generally, it only fails when you really need it to work. If you play with fire and wait until the very last second to attempt to submit your work in Canvas, you may get burned. This is an easy enough problem for us to avoid - you have a full week to complete your work, so don't wait until that last second to turn it in.

      *Discussion assignments have a two-pronged deadline schedule within the week - with initial postings due Monday nights and comments due on Wednesday nights.

      Citation and Reference Style

      I cannot overemphasize the importance of academic integrity. DO NOT copy and paste from unreferenced sources. Without exception: if you use a quotation from any source, as part of any submitted assignment, the quote must be clearly noted with quotation marks and properly cited in the text and on a Works Cited page.

      Please view the academic integrity policy of Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. I take violations of academic integrity very seriously in this class, and I will file an Academic Integrity Violation form with the College if you are found to be cheating in any way - whether that's sharing answers with a classmate, copying and pasting text and passing it off as your own, or anything else. It's simply not fair to the students who do their own work and do it well to tolerate cheating of any kind.  As a Penn State student, it is your responsibility to understand the University's academic integrity policies.

      It is important (not only in this course, but in all courses you take as well as in professional documents you produce) to employ proper citation methods for the sources you utilize. Failure to do so reduces the credibility of your work at best and can lead to suspicion of intentional plagiarism at worst. We don't want either of those things to happen!

      Resources for Citations and Reference Styles

      This seminar uses the APA style documented at the Purdue Online Writing Lab. Recognizing that many variations of APA style are in use, we do not enforce the Purdue style strictly. However, we do expect two things:

      1. Whenever you include text, a graphic, or an idea that is not your own, acknowledge the contribution in such a way that enables readers to find the original source; and
      2. Consistently apply one style of citations and references throughout all your assignments.
      If you are interested, Penn State has an APA Quick Citation Guide if you need some help. You can also check out Styles for Students - an excellent, in-depth tutorial of how and why we cite things. And, as always, contact your instructor if you have any questions.

      Deferred Grades

      If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time, it is possible to request to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by email or U.S. post) to your instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. It is up to your instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If, for any reason, the course work for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.


      The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as email and bulletin board postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain civility in discussions, but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of forum messages. Please review Virginia Shea's "The Core Rules of Netiquette (link is external)" for general guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course.

      Technical Requirements

      For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the World Campus Technical Requirements page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

      Internet Connection

      Access to a reliable Internet connection is required for this course. A problem with your Internet access may not be used as an excuse for late, missing, or incomplete coursework. If you experience problems with your Internet connection while working on this course, it is your responsibility to find an alternative Internet access point, such as a public library or Wi-Fi ® hotspot.

      Mixed Content

      This site is considered a secure web site which means that your connection is encrypted.  We do however link to content that isn't necessarily encrypted.  This is called mixed content.  By default, mixed content is blocked in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome.  This may result in a blank page or a message saying that only secure content is displayed.  Follow the directions on our Technical Requirements page to view the mixed content.


      This course must be viewed using the latest version of Firefox, Safari, Chrome, or Edge. Internet Explorer is not supported. If you use any other browser, or if you are not using the latest version of your browser, some pages containing equations will not render properly. In addition, javascript must be enabled for equations to render properly. If you have any issues with equations not rendering properly, please update your browser to the latest version or try using a different browser. If you need additional technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

      Penn State E-mail Accounts

      All official communications from Penn State are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information.

      Academic Integrity

      This course follows Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Guidelines for Undergraduates. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting others' work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other students' papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's Academic Integrity Training

      Course Copyright

      All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.

      For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy.

      Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

      Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Office for Student Disability Resources website provides contact information for Campus Disability Coordinators at every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Office for Student Disability Resources website

      In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled. You will participate in an intake interview and provide documentation. See documentation guidelines at Applying for Services from Student Disability Resources. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

      Change in Normal Campus Operations

      In case of weather-related delays or other emergency camps disruptions or closures at the University, this online course will proceed as planned. Your instructor will inform you if there are any extenuating circumstances regarding content or activity due dates in the course due to these delays or closures. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.

      Reporting Educational Equity Concerns

      Penn State takes great pride to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated (Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance) and can be reported through Educational Equity via Report Bias.

      Counseling and Psychological Services

      Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional wellbeing.  The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings.  These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.  Services include the following:

      Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS): 814-863-0395
      Counseling Services at Commonwealth Campuses
      Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
      Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741

      Military Personnel

      Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

      Connect Online with Caution

      Penn State is committed to educational access for all. Our students come from all walks of life and have diverse life experiences. As with any other online community, the lack of physical interaction in an online classroom can create a false sense of anonymity and security. While one can make new friends online, digital relationships can also be misleading. Good judgment and decision making are critical when choosing to disclose personal information to others whom you do not know.

      Deferred Grades

      If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time for reasons that are beyond your control, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor, following Penn State Deferred Grade Policy 48-40. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to the instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. Non-emergency permission for filing a deferred grade must be requested before the beginning of the final examination period.  It is up to the instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If permission is granted, you will work with the instructor to establish a communication plan and a clear schedule for completion within policy.  If for any reason, the coursework for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.


      This course will be conducted entirely online. There will be no set class meeting times, but you will be required to complete weekly assignments with specific due dates. Many of the assignments are open for multiple days, so it is your responsibility to complete the work early if you plan to travel or participate in national holidays, religious observances or University approved activities.

      If you need to request an exception due to a personal or medical emergency, contact the instructor directly as soon as you are able. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

      Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect

      Penn State is “committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others” as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming, and inclusive environment and to interact with civility.

      For additional information, see:

      Mandated Reporting Statement

      Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework. For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response website.

      Additionally, I am required to make a report on any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law.


      Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. All changes will be communicated with you via e-mail, course announcement and/or course discussion forum.