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New York City Crime Map Adds to Interactive Data Trend

NYC debuts a new interactive crime map that helps residents -- and represents a continued push nationally for more open data through mapping.

This month, New York City unveiled a new interactive crime map that lets residents view felony crime data by specific neighborhood — and in real time as reports occur. 

As the largest city in the nation, New York’s move toward transparency in this way represents a major milestone for interactive crime mapping. Out of the nation’s top 10 most populated cities (see below), 9 out of the 10 now use online interactive mapping — which lets users view and organize statistical data through an adjustable online map.

At its launch, the NYC Crime Map offered geographic criminal history for 2012 coupled with month-by-month data for 2013. Crimes depicted are based on the New York State Penal Law’s seven major felony crimes: grand theft auto, grand theft, burglary, assault, robbery, rape and murder.

In the city's announcement, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said that notwithstanding New York City’s unprecedented population levels, homicides are down and data driven efforts, such as the NYC Crime Map, are supporting crime prevention, bringing homicides near historic lows.

“This administration has relied on data to drive its crime fighting, and this map helps enhance New Yorkers’ and researchers’ understanding of where felony and violent crime persists,” Kelly said.

Built by the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommuniations (DoITT) using Google API mapping data, the project took six months to build and fulfills the city’s Local Law 39 that required the city to publish an interactive crime mapping Web site — an addition to the city’s previous crime reporting site that started in 2003 and chronicled crime statistics by precinct for public download.

Reflecting on the project, New York CIO Rahul Merchant lauded the site not only for its ability to communicate data, but also for its ability to communicate the data in a meaningful and easily understandable way for New York residents.

“The interactive crime map builds on report data and presents it visually in neighborhoods across the five boroughs, keeping the public informed about what is going on in their community,” Merchant said.

DOiTT reported there are additional interactive mapping plans for the city that will be announced in the coming months. The mapping sites will highlight city business opportunities and data from the New York Department of Health.

Transparency Trend

While the majority of the nation’s largest cities are moving toward interactive crime data, they appear to be doing so in different ways.

Like New York, some of the major cities have opted to provide mapping using in-house resources, while others, such as Texas’ Dallas and San Antonio, that have chosen to work with third party developers. In the two cities, this turned out to be Bair Analytics and and their online crime platform

Similarly, Los Angeles, the second most populous city in U.S., has also sought outside help through the Omega Group, an analytical software and service company that operates

Below is a list of the top 10 most populous cities, based on 2012 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, with links to each city’s crime mapping websites when applicable.

1. New York City
Population: 8,336,697
Crime Map:

2. Los Angeles
Population: 3,857,799
Crime Map:

3. Chicago
Population: 2,714,856
Crime Map:

4. Houston
Population: 2,160,821
Crime Map:

5. Philadelphia, Penn.
Population: 1,547,607
Crime Map:

6. Phoenix    
Population: 1,488,750
Crime Map: No interactive crime map, however, the city does provide downloadable crime maps once a month here:

7. San Antonio
Population: 1,382,951
Crime Map:

8. San Diego
Population: 1,338,348
Crime Map:

9. Dallas
Population: 1,241,162
Crime Map:,%20TX

10. San Jose, Calif.
Population: 982,765
Crime Map:

Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.