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LISC Partners with DataMade on Crime-Mapping Tool

Published: April 25, 2014

How can community organizations or block clubs keep track of crime in a particular area, for instance along the Kedzie business corridor in East Garfield Park, or a neighborhood safety target area in North Lawndale?

Until recently, it wasn’t easy.

Now a new web tool called crimearound.us allows tracking of reported crimes in any geography in Chicago, with any date range from last week all the way back to 2001.

Users can choose the target geography, types of crime, dates and time of day.

An early version of the tool was created last year after LISC’s Communications Director, Patrick Barry, pitched the idea at a safety hackathon at Google’s Chicago headquarters. Neighborhood partners had long sought a way to track crime in specific areas, he said, but potential users were overwhelmed by the Chicago Data Portal, with its list of 5.5 million crimes.

When Barry asked local programmer Eric van Zanten if there couldn’t be an easier way, van Zanten replied that there was indeed. He had already built out a back-end database for another crime-related tool that showed a connection between crime rates and warmer weather, and it could be further developed to map crimes anywhere in the city.

Two weeks later, van Zanten released a beta version of the tool.

This year, with support from LISC via a grant from Boeing Corporation, and free hosting from the Smart Chicago Collaborative, the civic tech firm DataMade is making it more useful.

Features developed by van Zanten and DataMade founder Derek Eder allow users to define custom geographies, set date ranges, and choose what types of crimes they want to track. More tweaks were added after LISC organized a focus group in January to connect neighborhood leaders to the DataMade team.

"It's been really exciting working on this project," said Eder. "Not every problem can be solved with technology, but if you meet the right people and ask the right questions, maybe there's an app for that."

The dashboard allows custom searches that can be saved, printed or downloaded in spreadsheet formats.

The tool is still in beta, meaning that further improvements will be made to fix bugs and improve functionality. But already it packs a lot of punch, allowing:

  • Filtered views by type of crime, time of day and location (on the sidewalk, in a business).
  • Filter by police beats.
  • Downloads of all data in Excel.
  • Saved searches.
  • High resolution printable maps

There is also a new Help page. DataMade will continue the development process by working on real-world applications with Enlace Chicago and Southwest Organizing Project. LISC will convene interested parties in the coming months.

DataMade also worked with LISC and Teamwork Englewood to develop a website called largelots.org, which helped Englewood residents identify and apply for $1 land purchases under the new Large Lot Pilot Program. The tool was heavily used in the weeks running up to the April 21 filing deadline, and is likely to be used again for future rounds of the program.

For more information, contact Taryn Roch, LISC Program Officer for Impact and Evaluation, or Derek Eder of DataMade.

Posted in Areas of Work, Neighborhoods

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Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.

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