Greenway proximity crime analysis


Final Report


The Town of Cary maintains an extensive network of Greenway trails that connect parks, residential neighborhoods, and commercial locations throughout the town limits, and even into adjacent cities. These trails provide an excellent opportunity for recreation via walking, biking, and exploring the natural areas of the town. Many of the greenway trails are located within a very short distance of, or even adjacent to, residential neighborhoods and private property.

As the population of Cary continues to grow, there is a potential for an increase in the number of people living in close proximity to these greenway trails. With the popularity of the recreational opportunities provided by these trails, the opportunity for criminal activity in the nearby residential areas also has the potential of increasing. Often located in wooded or densely covered areas, Greenway trails can offer solitude and relaxation from the stressors of daily schedules. However, these same qualities can also increase the opportunity for certain crimes and can offer the access and anonymity that criminals desire.

The purpose of this project is to analyze 2009 crime data within the Town of Cary limits to determine if there is a higher occurrence of any criminal activity in residential neighborhoods that are in close proximity to Greenway trails than those that are not.


This assignment was the final project for GIS 510, Introduction to Geospatial Information Science. The requirements simply required the identification of a real-world problem which answered three spatial questions. Two types of data were required, spatial and crime data. The following shapefiles were obtained from the Town of Cary's public GIS website. All files were dated 10/11/2010. The crime data was obtained from the News & Observer's Police incident website with the following search criteria: Crime type of ALL, City of CARY, Date Range of 1/01/2009 - 12/31/2009, Time Range of 00:00:00a - 11:59:59pm.


This project was broken down into three parts in order to try and answer the initial question on the relationship between crime occurrence and the proximity to Greenway trails. The first part involved a land analysis to determine the total land area of the Town of Cary and compare it to the land area of the existing and proposed Greenway trails. A buffer area of 1000 feet was used for all Greenways. Second, the residential structures that were within the buffered Greenway study areas were assessed to determine average value to aid in determining correlation of crime activity to certain areas relative to income. Lastly, the crime data was geocoded and displayed on a map for visualizing crime occurrence to areas with the Town limits.

In preparing the crime data, the type of crime was limited to misdemeanor offenses that may be influenced by geographic location and Greenway proximity. Crimes such as fraud, embezzlement, alcohol-related offenses, and weapons violations were excluded from this study. The original data set contained 5,646 offenses and was reduced to 3,207 after excluding the non-geographcally related crimes.

See the final report (pdf download) for complete details of the data preparations and spatial analysis methods used in the study.


Overall, there were no discernible trends or patterns in the crime data and living in close proximity to a Greenway trail did not increase the odds of becoming a victim to any particular crime. The percentage of the rate of occurrence of each of the top five crime types were relatively the same as the percentage of land coverage of each study area to the total Town of Cary limits.