Recently the Crime Mapping and Analysis Program (CMAP) at Washington College completed an analysis of farm irrigation systems in Maryland. The analysis was performed at the request of the Maryland State Police. You may be wondering what is so valuable on an irrigation system, the answer is metal. Most people have heard in the news of vandals going into abandoned houses and stealing metal pipes, wires and downspouts to sell as scrap metal. Irrigation systems like homes are made of metal and use wire to power their movement around the field. Repairing an irrigation system after a theft can cost as much as $10,000 depending on the size of the system.
The goal of the project was to not only help the Maryland State Police, but all law enforcement in Maryland. The majority of irrigation systems are located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where the land is flat and agriculture is a large industry. With the help of the State Police, CMAP was able to obtain the approximate location of every irrigation system that operated last summer. CMAP then produced a map tailored to each county in the State to help law enforcement understand where at risk systems were in their own jurisdiction. The map was then added to a bulletin that was disseminated to law enforcement.
In addition to the completed analysis, Washington College students are being engaged to enhance the accuracy of the irrigation data. While the location of irrigation systems that operated last summer was extremely valuable it does not include all systems, and the size of the system and the spatial location is often off by as much as a 1/2mile. Students are using high resolution ortho-imagery to add any irrigation system that were missed and attribute all irrigation systems with information about their size. Once this process in complete other students will be able to use actual data on where irrigation thefts have occurred to analyze and determine if there are any factors that may make an irrigation system more prone to theft.