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It displays “layers” of geographic information, usually starting with a map of the geographic area you’re interested in – in this case, a street map of Petersonville.The locations of all accidents in the past six months, for instance, would be another layer; the locations of accidents that resulted in hospitalizations during that same period might be a second; the locations of traffic controls (warning or stop signs, flashing lights, etc.) could constitute a third.

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GIS is a method of digital (i.e., computerized) mapping that can show you where particular people, events, things, or conditions are, and give you other information about them as well. We can look briefly at how GIS works by using the traffic example above.

The planner started with a GIS computer program that creates maps from data that’s fed into it.

Often, community problems require a geographic examination.

Maps that contain detailed information about social, economic, and political trends can be a valuable resource in community problem solving.

There is much information that isn’t visible in this way, however.

A good example is the location of traffic accidents referred to in the introduction to this section.

In order to function, however, GIS systems have basic needs: GIS is often extremely useful in health and community services.

It can track the spread or incidence of diseases, or of medical or social conditions.

Imagine that the street map is drawn on paper, and the other layers are drawn on transparent plastic to exactly the same scale.

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