Thursday, May 19, 2005
Where Data Meets the Street: Chicagocrime.org 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
May 2005 screenshot from www.chicagocrime.org

There's a lot of buzz in town about Chicagocrime.org, a new website that uses Chicago Police Citizen ICAM crime reporting stats and Google Maps data to generate a searchable real-time image of crimes reported in the city. It's a remarkable example of how creative folks - like Chicagocrime.org creator Adrian Holovaty - have found innovative, practical, and positive uses for the massive quantities of data being generated by public and private agencies every day. [via Gapers Block]

Using Chicagocrime.org, visitors can view Google Maps displaying reported crimes by location, date, classification, or selecting from any number of variables: you can search for all crimes on your street, or narrow down your search to, say, burglaries or assaults on your block during the past week. Click on the blue link that labels each crime report, and a new window pops up with a street-level map nad detailed information about the incident (no names, however; you'll have to get those from the police).

On the home page, you'll find a quick breakdown of crime stats, such high-crime dates, beats with the highest crime and lowest crime rates in the city, crimes by frequency and incident location - and, which hours of the day are most criminogenic in Chi-town (hint: it's not the middle of the night).

Geographic information system geeks, criminal justice majors (ahem), and plain ol' city residents will find the site fascinating and easy-to-use; just remember, if you feel a hint of urban paranoia coming on, remember that information like this should be in the hands of the common person, not just mouldering on police databases or file cabinets in the basement of City Hall.

By the way, notice anything slightly odd about the above crime map, displaying Chicago arrests for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana? Namely, that virtually all arrests for this type of offense appear to be occurring in one specific area of town? It's not an error or glitch; in one of my CRMJ classes we learned of an enforcement "hot spot" along Division west of downtown that has a marijuana arrest rate at least 5-6 times as high as any other in the city.