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BBC’s iPM looks at crime mapping in Chicago

The BBC’s iPM – the radio programme whose topics are suggested (though “chosen” would be overstating it) by its listeners – has looked at the topic of crime mapping, investigating how it’s done in Chicago.

There are two pieces: talking to Everyblock, the followup to chicagocrime,.org (which did the original crime mapping idea, building on the release by the Chicago police of the crime location data); and then talking to Jonathan Lewin, information services division commander in the Chicago police’s official crime mapping effort, and its GIS manager Joseph Kezon. You’ll have to visit the page to get the audio.

Notable points from the blog post:

Not everyone, of course, is happy with crime mapping. On the programme this weekend we’ll hear from groups who worry that crime-mapping could be counter-productive, affecting house prices, increasing fear of crime, and leading to areas being stigmatized.

Ah yes, the fear of knowing too much. Why don’t we just buy houses without ever seeing them? Why do we bother getting them surveyed? If house prices are affected, might it not also push up prices in places that don’t have crime? I’d have thought that more places would show low crime than will show high crime (because crime tends to cluster, for reasons that in hindsight are generally obvious), so that’s a net benefit for house prices; not that those should be the start or end of any conversation. (Please.)

Also amused by one of the comments:

I live in Surrey and we only have 10 police officers and all the police stations have been closed. They appear once a year for a major event and then we don’t see them again for 12 months. We do have a helicopter, loads of speed cameras, town centre cameras and a new video speed check van.

I think the police had a choice of more police on the beat or the helicopter and they decided that the helicopter looked like more fun. It hasn’t caught any criminals yet but they will produce statistics at the drop of a hat to assure you it is essential to crime busting.

The helicopter is very annoying and it would be useful to know the areas where it flies so potential house purchasers could avoid these areas. It flies around and around in pointless circles until residents are forced to report crimes in the next district so that it will fly away.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want more police on the beat. I want them to sell the helicopter and give me my money back.

Yup, helicopters are expensive to run. Maybe if there was a crime map you could decide where it should go more quickly..?

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