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Hi there,

Our next edition of Conversations with Data will be featuring data journalism on the crime beat. We're looking for input from data journalists -- of any skill level -- about their experiences using data to tell stories about criminal justice. Whether it's your top sources of crime data, mistakes or lessons you've learnt on this beat, or advice for crime newbies, please share below!

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I guess the first piece of advice is to understand the difference between the two key pieces of crime data: 1) data on recorded crime, and 2) data on experiences of crime. The second type of data is important because many crimes don't get reported, and particular types of crime are more under-reported than others.

Also, recorded crime is often poorly recorded/reported. This story by my BBC colleague Dan Wainwright illustrates some of the concerns about the quality of crime data (and also explains more about the crime survey): https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-46894162

2 key takeaways: it's important to be accurate in your use of language - talk about "50% of crimes reported to the police" rather than "50% of crimes", for example.

And secondly, seek out multiple sources of crime data if that's relevant to the story. Remember that police data may not be the only data there is, look for crime surveys and also things like sentencing data. 

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👮‍♂️🕵️‍♀️ Our newsletter is out: https://datajournalism.com/read/newsletters/data-on-the-crime-beat

Adding to @Paul Bradshaw's fantastic advice above, I'm sharing some other tidbits that we quite have room for...

From Breaking the Dark Net's Einar Otto Stangvik: "I’d add to that point and stress the need for diverse, yet evenly valued teams. As a data guy I’ve been in projects where I’ve felt a shared sense of ownership of the project, and I’ve been in projects where I’ve had the distinct notion of being the tool that’s supposed to solve a problem -- but have no further stake, neither explicit nor implicit, in the end product. Construct teams of equals, all with full trust and insight, and with as varied experience as possible -- that’ll consistently yield the best results."

And, from Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, author of The Rise of Big Data Policing: "Stories about policing technology are stories about power. Journalists need to interrogate who is shaping that power and who is left out.  The networks of corporate power and influence are almost as intertwined and all-encompassing as the data-driven surveillance systems being designed for our cities.  Both need to be deconstructed and critically examined to see the inherent biases, incentives, and financial connections."

Last but not least, Albert Bowden, Web Developer for the Library of Virginia, had the following tips to add:

  • "Criminal justice data suffers from a lack of standards: collections, data, and reporting, that form extremely formidable barriers to perform analysis."
  • "Gaining access to a dataset is never the final barrier in the path; odds are the dataset is limited, or needs to be converted into a digestible format."
  • "Link open datasets to expand your own. Familiarity with your datasets ecosystem can facilitate making these connections faster."
  • "Tool up in preparation of format conversions; knowing where to find solutions will save time/headaches; knowing how to implement them allows you to maintain complete ownership of your dataset and its stories."

Any other thoughts to add? Or questions for our contributors? Post them here.

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Hey there, maybe it's too late for this topic, but I wanted to share our Crimemap project from Stuttgart, Germany with you. We have been inspired by things like the DC Crime Map, yet there is no such open data approach in Germany. The only information you get from the local police is around 10-15 reports on what they think is most relevant during the day. Plus there is an annual statistical report (on paper).

So we decided to automatically analyse these daily reports (+ the archive dating back until January 2014) with NLP and RegEx and create our own database of every incident that has been publicly reported by the city's police authorities - that makes for a total of 11.000 reports between 2014 and 2019. We published our Crimemap today and are now working on a detailed analysis of the data gathered. 

I am looking forward to see comments and tips ...


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