Crime Mapping and the Los Angeles Police

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The Los Angeles Police Department’s attempts at providing public mapping has not been without its issues and embarrassments. Chronicled here are the various issues and advances with mapping crime in Los Angeles.

1,380 Crimes At One Point

September 20, 2008: The Los Angeles Times highlighted the distortion caused by geocoding undecipherable addresses to a default location around the corner from City Hall.   The mapping application housed at www.lapdcrimemaps.org places all addresses the software is unable to geocode at the location in the 200 block of West 1st Street.  This has result in nearly 4% of all crimes being attributed to this location in the time period between October of 2008 and March of 2009.  This anomaly apparently went unnoticed by the Los Angeles Police Department until it was alerted by the Los Angeles Times.   As a short-term fix, the consultants that developed the mapping application, Lightray Productions and the sub-consultant PSOMAS (which does the geocoding), are plotting problematic locations to a new crime hotspot found off the coast of West Africa (corresponding to a lat/long of 0).

In the meantime, other applications such as EveryBlock that pull data from the LAPD site have propagated the error on their mapping sites.  Adrian Holovat, the founder of EveryBlock, responded by saying, “We have to assume at some fundamental level that the governments aren’t feeding us data that is complete garbage,” a sentiment echoed in their disclaimer which states, “Any mistakes found on EveryBlock should be sent to sources that provide the original data.”

Read more: Highest crime rate in L.A.? No, just an LAPD map glitch – Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Crime Mapping Goofs Again

July 9, 2009: The Los Angeles Times has followed up on their analysis of the accuracy of the Los Angeles Police Department’s online crime mapping application.  Back in April, the issue was that the default location for unmappable addresses landed 1,380 addresses at a location behind City Hall, skewing the analysis of safe neighborhoods.  Psomas, the consulting firm responsible for geocoding, resolved the issue by changing the default location to a long/lat of 0.  The new analysis by the LA Times shows that almost 19,000 crimes from this year (between January 1st and June 13th) are missing from the online mapping application.  The LA Times discovered the error when compiling their own crime mapping application, noting that while the LAPD officially reported 52,000 crimes during the first half of this year, only 33,000 crimes were mapped.  Psomas has stated in an email to the LA Times that the crimes were missing due to an “inadvertent programming error” that they claim has since been fixed.  As of the publication of the LA Times article, the 19,000 crimes were still missing from the map.

Read more:  LAPD’s public database omits nearly 40% of this year’s crimes – Los Angeles Times

LAPD Goes With the LA Times

October 2, 2010: The Los Angeles Times recently debuted Crime L.A., a Los Angeles countywide look at crime.  The mapping application pulls data from both the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to map out and generate statistics on crimes in the various cities and neighborhoods of the county.  The Times is continuing to build on that data and has contacted the various law enforcement agencies within the county for their crime data.  Crime statistics can be looked up by address, neighborhood, or region.

The Los Angeles Times also announced that the LAPD is (at least temporarily) redirecting visitors to its own crime mapping application to the LA Times site.  The LAPD mapping application has experienced a few hiccups since its launch, most notably the incorrect geocoding of crimes.  Visitors who attempt to access the LAPD crime maps are provided with this message:

“The Los Angeles Police Department’s Crime Map page is currently undergoing technical renovations in preparation for a new crime mapping system which will include expanded crime data from adjacent agencies, and will accommodate our growing viewer data base. Until such time as the new crime mapping system is fully functional, you may view Part One crime data provided to the Los Angeles Times by the Los Angeles Police Department at http://projects.latimes.com/mapping-la/crime/. We apologize for any inconvenience during this process and thank you for your patience and understanding.”

Visit: Crime L.A.

LAPD Launches Revamped Crime Mapping Web Site

May 13, 2011: The Los Angeles Police Department debuted a revamped crime mapping web site today.  The new mapping application was created by the Omega Group and is hosted on the Crimemapping.com site.  The underlying technology on the site is Esri’s ArcGIS API for JavaScript, connecting to ArcGIS Server.

Access to LAPD’s Part One crime mapping is available through the Crime Mapping and COMPSTAT section of LAPDonline.org.  Part 1 crimes are also known as the Crime Index and include violent crime such as rape, murder, and assault and property crimes such as burglary, vehicle theft, and larceny.  Plotted crime can be filtered by agency and type of crime.

The debut of the new crime mapping ends the public crime mapping hiatus imposed after a series of publicized errors resulted in the LAPD pulling down its crime mapping site and redirecting visitors to the LA Times Crime Map back in October of 2010.  The first snafu occurred when the LA Times noticed a disproportionate number  of crimes occurring in the 200 block of West 1st Street.  The issue turned out to be the default mapping of 1,380 undecipherable addresses to LAPD’s headquarters.  A few months later, the LA Times again noticed an anomaly in the mapping of crimes with over 19,000 reported crimes missing from the online mapping application.  The mapping application, which had been developed by Lightray Productions and the sub-consultant PSOMAS, was pulled a couple of months later.

The LAPD also plans to debut CRIMEVIEW®Community in the future which is “a browser-based community policing application that gives the public access to crime data in their neighborhoods quickly and easily.


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