Crime data stories

“Two of the bullets hit our daughters bedroom– one went through the wall and crossed a small portion of the room and lodged in another wall near her sliding glass door. #

There are lots of factors behind violent neghborhoods, and the San Francisco projects are pretty densely representative of many of those factors. But it really irritates me that guns are so prevalent in the area, and, in general, so prevalent in America. #

“A homicide may not appear correctly on the map because: #

  1. The incident was initially reported as an assault and the victim died some time later from the injuries.
  2. The incident was reported as an arson, and the body was not found until a later time.
  3. A body was found and the cause of death was not obvious to the officer making the incident report.”
I’m hoping that the City has more advanced reporting capabilities internally, as it seems pretty obvious that we have a data visualization failure going on here. I can see some data around assaults, robberies, larceny, vandalism, drug incidents, etc. #

“Each weekday, my computer program goes to the Chicago Police Department’s website and gathers all crimes reported in Chicago.” #

The site has some great info (such as this screenshot of “Armed Robbery: Handgun Incidents”), though I still want to see an editorial lens on this data that puts a bit more meaning behind it. #

“…Officers found Williams lying on the floor of the trailer with blunt-force trauma to her head. Emergency medical technicians declared her dead at the scene. An autopsy shows she had been beaten to death, said John Gagliano, chief investigator for the Orleans Parish coroner’s office. #

I’m very thankful for local reporting from sites like, The Times Picayune, and community leaders such as Mike Lin of PotreroHillSF and the increasingly active Yahoo! Group Potrero Hill Parents Association who all help surface this kind of information, but it’s not enough. The City needs make it easier for its residents to both report on things that matter to us and to collect the data, filter it, and act on it. #

“Under pressure from constituents who say New Orleans police stonewall requests for crime data, the City Council’s criminal justice subcommittee took police representatives to task Wednesday, calling for a faster, freer flow of public information…When asked for a written breakdown of policy and procedures relating to the release of public information, Maj. Michael Sauter, the head of technology, told the council most of that information was ‘not meant for the public.'” #

Similarly, Rick Klau has begun experimenting with this kind of thing in response to the Magnetix toy recall incident. He calls it “Open source parenting” and observes that bottom-up community-driven politics is likely to be more successful than anything a politician can enable: #

“If the government is under-staffed and under-funded to help parents avoid harmful toys, then why can’t we help ourselves?…Give thousands of parents the tools to easily identify harmful products, leverage the community’s ability to provide visibility to legitimate threats while minimizing less serious risks, and quickly disseminate information that could be instrumental in avoiding a serious accident.” #

I’m suddenly wondering what role politicans will play if communities are able to form solutions to issues locally, nationally and internationally on their own. Maybe instead of legislators (or merely professional campaigners/marketers), politicians will become community managers. #

8 thoughts on “Crime data stories”

  1. Matt, we share a common vision for the future. Governments are becoming the barriers for more creative solutions. They should become enablers of community-driven solutions. We’re seeing that in many more ways than one in New Orleans, where even though the problems of rebuilding the city are enormous, citizens are prepared to do the work, but public officials aren’t willing to unleash their creative ability.

    This is a very thoughtful post on “the wisdom of crowds.”

  2. Matt,

    Excellent review and insight. We recently launched a site as a partner with DC Stat (referenced above) for the Metropolitan Police of Washington DC to provide high-impact Google Maps and automated location-based alerts to the community. There are more than 15,000 citizens in the city who receive this information. Here is how one Zip Code in NW presents:

    The service is free to members of the community and to the MPDC. We are adding and handful of other departments when the beta is completed in a few weeks. Any department can join, and with the push toward Justice XML, most departments will be able to do it quickly and easily, it not now then in the near future. If, that is, the public demands it.

Comments are closed.