People Get Ready

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Archive for the ‘Crime Mapping’ Category

A change is gonna come

Posted by schroeder915 on March 11, 2007

Not that I mind people seeing ol’ boneless chicken when they visit, but I truly am falling behind. The Times-Picayune’s Mark Schleifstein, Bob Marshall, and Dan Swenson get enormous accolades for adding kindling to the fire by underscoring how important it is that Louisiana reverse the destruction of coastal wetlands in the next ten years! I may have more to say about that at another time, because I also have some great NASA imagery and reports on global warming and sea level rises that I’ve been holding on to.

Yep, after months of plotting, tweaking, evaluating, and screwing around, PGR is about to make the last move to a new host. Get ready to update those links, because a change is gonna come! This week! Bear with me, and then I’ll put all those juicy sidebar links back that used to be in the Blogger PGR.

I’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do. For now, I’ll just say I’ve been busy aiding other projects vital for the recovery of New Orleans. I ask everyone to join in these efforts to make a difference for a city we love, and which deserves our love in return.

Posted in Category 5 Storm Protection, Coastal Restoration, Crime Mapping, Hurricane Protection, Louisiana, Media Democracy, New Orleans, Wetlands Restoration | 6 Comments »

Empower New Orleans citizens; support open source solutions!

Posted by schroeder915 on February 19, 2007

To create a successful information-driven society, and a well-informed citizenry, public policy should promote the open source development of services, and make every effort to eliminate ownership over raw data. When data becomes an exclusive domain, citizens may not get the information they need to make critical decisions. This could be a life-and-death issue when that data could reveal to citizens critical information about the safety of their neighborhoods. For too many years, the City of New Orleans has manipulated and reported crime information as a tool to control public opinion, arguing that it has an exclusive right to the raw data. Wise citizens should be wary of private entities trying to do the same thing — limiting access to information for private benefit and, thus, stifling the data transformation solutions which might arise from open access to the raw data.

New Orleanians have always wanted easier and more timely access to information about crime, arrests, and prosecutions (or releases). Citizens have been advocating more loudly than ever before that they should have access to those records. The first hurdle — what ought to be the easiest one to clear — is asserting citizen ownership the raw 911 calls for service records. These are the records of every call placed to 911, warehoused in city data systems. The NOPD receives a daily file of those 911 records via an electronic file transfer. It would be simple to add another file recipient to the list of destination addresses.

The question, then, is who else should receive that file? One wouldn’t want to have ask the city to manage a list of recipients. It would be far better to identify a single unbiased, non-governmental entity to receive and host the data for any citizen who wishes to use it. Then, the value of the data wouldn’t be the data itself, but what citizens themselves decide to do with the data in an open society. The true value isn’t in the data itself, per se, but instead in the ways that the data can be transformed into more meaningful ways — tables, charts, maps: data transformation services.

Citizens want to know some basic facts: Where, how much, and what types of crime are occurring in their neighborhoods? Is crime rising or falling? Are there identifiable patterns of crime? Is the criminal justice system responding in an appropriate manner to emerging threats? There are a number of different ways to represent answers to those questions.

No one entity has all of the solutions, nor should one entity be trusted to publish accurate reports. This is precisely why a society which permits a free flow of raw data — allowing developers to openly access the data and to provide meaningful answers — will inevitably produce a result which far exceeds what any private entity could accomplish. Furthermore, open access to data guarantees that those information services don’t just cease when a private entity no longer sees a private benefit from using the data.

A letter to the editor today underscores a deficit of understanding in the community about how the open source principles I’ve outlined above would better serve citizens than private, exclusive principles.

Residents want to see crime statistics reported accurately and in real time, which has not been done by the police on their Web site.

A proven program called NOCrime has been endorsed by the City Council 7-0, though the council did not provide money. This program would take reporting the crimes out of the hands of police and politicians who have an interest in keeping the crime statistics low.

Such a program could help residents understand the crime in their neighborhoods, work with the police to prevent crime and ensure transparency in crime reporting.

Rusty Berridge
New Orleans

The writer is supporting an initiative being marketed around town lately to provide citizens with a crime mapping system. Unfortunately, there are, at best, exaggerated claims made about what the system was in the past, and what it will provide in the future.

The first issue citizens should consider is that the NOCrime “proven program” was a short-lived crime-mapping initiative which has now been defunct for more than ten years. Citizens really should ask what happened to the NOCrime Web site and advocacy after funding dried up? Secondly, if the NOCrime concept is so brilliant, why are there, at present, no crime mapping systems on the NOCrime Web site? There’s nothing on the NOCrime Web site now but a bunch of links to other organizations. All citizens are told by NOCrime marketers is that if their idea is supported financially, it “could” help residents.

Why not start helping us now? Indeed, the open source solutions to provide crime mapping, reporting, and alert systems already exist. What might once have required a significant investment ten years ago, when the NOCrime concept was first conceived, now only requires tapping into the freely-available mapping services in a Google maps, or Yahoo maps, mashup. All that’s lacking is the raw crime data. Indeed, there are already a number of developers who have demonstrated an interest in mapping crime, and who have resorted to very creative approaches to finding data — albeit not current data — in order to get around the lack of access to the raw 911 calls for service data.

So why isn’t NOCrime supporting an open source solution, by which anyone in the community could access raw crime data to develop services for the community? Why isn’t NOCrime supporting the concept of a third party entity hosting and sharing the raw 911 calls for service data? Could it be that NOCrime has outlived its usefulness, and therefore, the only thing left to latch onto is owning the raw data for private benefit? NOCrime should be required to prove that it has the capacity to develop its own privately-owned services by sharing access to 911 calls for service data with competing citizen initiatives.

The ownership distinction is subtle — ownership of data vs. ownership of services — but it is absolutely imperative that the community not work to ingratiate one entity or another, and that it get behind an initiative to empower all citizens to develop their own robust data transformation services which outlive the interest of private entities. Moreover, in the case of reporting crime information, the best solution will be obtained when community ownership over services — not just data — is promoted as public policy. Never should rewards be derived from clutching onto data for control over information and financial resources. Neither does private development of data transformation systems serve the community effectively and in perpetuity. With open access to data, and open source development of services, the community always owns the information systems it relies upon. There is no other alternative which provides the community with absolute ownership of, and confidence in, the information they have a right to know.

The City Council is hedging on this issue, being won over by persistent NOCrime marketing tactics. Citizens need to be vocal in their support of open access/open source solutions — now — before a decision is made by the Council to support a private entity whose track record fails to demonstrate a true commitment of service to the community.

Posted in Crime, Crime Mapping, Katrina Dissidents, New Orleans | 3 Comments »

Krewe of Barkus 2007

Posted by schroeder915 on February 14, 2007

The tornado(s) that ripped through New Orleans were unexpected. I had to get up early on Tuesday to go into the Black Pearl neighborhood at Uptown Square. There was considerable destruction there — car windows burst out, trees sheared and their tops slammed into cars, a church with it’s entire facade and windows blown out, a lot of new utility poles damaged and leaning on houses. When, later, I did a loop up St. Charles Avenue and Carrollton Avenue, I discovered that the destruction was far worse than what I’d already seen. The whole facade of the KIPPS school was torn off exposing classrooms inside, roofs blown off, windows blown out, live oaks shredded — it looked like the mess left after Hurricane Katrina (without the flooding). And then the tornado went through Gentilly and Pontchartrain Park. State Farm alone was saying yesterday that they expected about 5000 to 10,000 claims from the storm. These people need some serious help.

It might be inappropriate to follow with a delayed parade post, but this is New Orleans after all, and we refuse to be bowed by mother nature. Here are some Krewe of Barkus photos. As with Krewe du Vieux, I think the satire, floats, and costumes were better last year. A friend speculated that the effort put in this year might reflect this past year’s exhaustion and stress from the recovery effort.


Volunteers recently updated the Citizen Crime Watch Web site. It now contains assorted property and persons crimes for 2007. This resource could provide an extremely vital service to the community if the criminal justice system started supplying the raw 911 calls for service data and data from other systems. I encourage bloggers to advertise widely the call for criminal justice agencies to cooperate with grassroots development efforts by providing their data so that we can acquire a greater awareness about the safety of our neighborhoods, and identify ways to improve the criminal justice system. The crime mapping and reporting initiatives underway by volunteers aren’t just a novelty — they’re essential resources that belong to the community, and that belong in the community, where crime problems are lived with on a daily basis, and where confidence in the criminal justice system has eroded. Communities need to be empowered to own the solutions to their problems for the community policing idea to work — but they also need to have the data in hand to hold their public officials accountable when the criminal justice system isn’t backing them up.

I’m trying to get caught up on a number of tasks, but time permitting, I soon hope to post some reflections on the testimony of NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley and District Attorney Eddie Jordan at the City Council criminal justice committee hearing this past Monday.

Posted in Carnival, Crime, Crime Mapping, GIS, Mardi Gras, New Orleans | 5 Comments »

“Where’s Schroeder?”

Posted by schroeder915 on February 8, 2007

So asked an anonymous commenter who only referred to himself as “Where’s Schroeder.”

Sorry folks. The anticipation is killing me too. There’s so much going on right now, but so little time. I do, in fact, have a lot to report since my absence.

I’ll start right here — I want this thing enlarged poster size to hang on my wall …


And here …


The first image is a drawing made by Nagendra at a Saturday meetup of neighborhood activists. The diagram represents the new linkages between neighborhoods which began to form after Hurricane Katrina. Circles represent the nodes, or cells, of neighborhoods. Lines between the nodes are the arbitrary political boundaries drawn by politicians long before Hurricane Katrina because, Nagendra said, that was the only way they said they could govern. After Hurricane Katrina, those boundaries were washed away. Now, citizens are talking to and collaborating with whomever they chose. Linkages are forming with residents who live in distant neighborhoods based upon common needs. This was best demonstrated by the 5000-strong march on City Hall against violence, in which every neighborhood was represented — every race, every class, every age.

The second image is a prototype online crime mapping, reporting, alert, and analysis system. The public needs to start making noise for the raw 911 calls for service data to be made available to citizens at the same time the NOPD gets the data, in order to further develop this resource as a timely service for the community. Later, the demand for other criminal justice records can be made to complete an understanding about what’s happening in the criminal justice system, and to give citizens more powerful tools to demand greater accountability. There will be a brainstorming meeting to determine where to take this initiative in the future, Mon. 2/12, 7 p.m., Sound Cafe, 2700 Chartes St. (RSVP in case the venue changes).

I’m still debugging my effort to move PGR to a final home on my own Web host. This will be coming soon, and then I’ll finally put back all the sidebar links which used to be on the old Blogger PGR.

Posted in Crime, Crime Mapping, GIS, Katrina Dissidents, New Orleans | 6 Comments »