10/29/2006

BuffaloCrime.org?

Been into things google, long time, here recently. One of the coolest mash-ups using google maps is still ChicagoCrimes.org - I've been linking with the button on the right for the past year. Really cool way of keeping track of what's happening where, in Chicago. Very easy to navigate and you can search by street, block and get rss feeds for any combination of data. Really cool.
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Question for Buffalonians. How transparent is crime data here in Buffalo? I know you can request certain data sets, yet I think it would be beneficial on many different levels to have similar data available here on-line for stuff that goes down in Buffalo. Fire department activity, too. Wonder about all the sirens and I know that the Buffalo News doesn't cover most of the Fire Dept's activity.

If this or similar data is available for Buffalo, NY in a manner that is easliy retrievable, I'd like to know.

goog

6 comments:

b said...

I've wondered same thing about such data availability for Buffalo.

ChicagoCrimes.org is very cool, and feasible only because Chicago PD outputs the info updated periodically and in some openly published data format (presumably some flavor of XML), then some private citizen hooked it up into G-Maps. Probably other cities publish their info too - maybe there's even some existing general standard for the data format.

If it inputs all crime reports every week, I wonder if Buffalo's CityStat could be tweaked fairly easily to generate this? Looking around on Buffalo web site, certainly there's nothing mentioned about anything along these lines mentioned. Closest I found just now was a PDF presentation under the police CityStat report (see 3rd slide for a homicide map - maybe they have an internal program to generate that):
http://www.ci.buffalo.ny.us/files/1_2_1/Mayor/CitiStat/Buffalo%20Police%20Department/9-29-06/Homicides%20Update.pdf

And nothing like a project for this kind of data appears on their list of "projects in progress" either, unfortunately:
http://www.ci.buffalo.ny.us/Home/Leadership/City_Departments/Management_Information_Systems/ProjectsInProgress

If they could find a way to start publishing the data, many kinds of interesting mashups could be created, as you allude to.

If the data was made available, it would be nice (and not too difficult) for someone to create a free web service that allows subscribers via RSS to be notified of certain types and/or locations of crimes.

A really cool ambitious thing I can think of would be to make a BuffaloCrimes site and also mash it together with court data (assuming that's available some day!) so citizens could have an easy way to find out what happens for a particular case (i.e., trace a crime report, through arrest, formal charge, disposition, etc.)

Similar things could be done with property violations too, but that would also depend on the government making the data available in some XML of course. For whatever reasons, government departments might not be anxious to open up all this data for easy public access.

fix buffalo said...

b,

Spot on.

Guy who does this form Chicago would make his application available here. Web guru friends tell me these things are getting easier to do. Like opening new e-mail account.

Problem with the City's data and how it's defined and presented with Citistat - three different people sent me this, this morning - is the lack of flexibility and wholesale missing interactivity that RSS and XML provide.

Like the difference between a lecture and a conversation. Want more revealed...and less concealed.

For readers who had trouble linking to b's links:

1. Homicide Update .pdf
2. Projects in Progress

b said...

Regarding the lack of flexibility and wholesale missing interactivity that RSS and XML provide:

I wonder if you got impression from your contacts that they (city) would be willing to publish and periodically update the data even in its current unfriendly format? And/or do they already make it available?

Even though not XML, does it seem totally unstructured, or is it weird and complex but there's at least some reliable patterns and consistency to it, even if minimal?

Reason for asking all that is I might have a little insight into some sofware techniques that could feasibly convert it into an XML format such as Chicago people use, depending on just how they're storing it now.

fix buffalo said...

b,

Don't know. Will find out. While I do happen to know if other cities are doing anything like chicagocrimes.org or if this is being used elsewhere.

I'll check with developer, too.

b said...

Just looked around on web and didn't see anything comparable for cities other than Chicago.

Plenty of people on blogs in various places linking to Chicago site and asking same question "Why can't we have something like this in _____(city) ?" No doubt same issue as here - no data being made public anywhere near as usable as what Chicago PD publishes.

Frustrating thing of course is vast majority of city govts, Buffalo's included no doubt, do internally keep up-to-date data that's at least decently organized for this kind of thing, but so far won't make it public.

Would be interesting to see whatever kind of data format it is that Buffalo would be willing to make public in periodically updated chunks.

Chicago apparently provides 90 days worth of data with a 7 day lag.

fix buffalo said...

b,

thanks for staying with this.

fixBuffalo reader and friend just sent some links, subject for another post to NYC and Baltimore. Better than Buffalo yet still miss the interactivity mark we are looking for. Will post tomorrow.

Please send, e-mail, me salient links, thanks.