In case heard me on the radio today and wanted to see the posts about Seattle.gov's My Neighborhood Map program and the Seattle Police Department's crime statistics, here they are:
SPD Crime Data: ? (Jan. 26)
SPD Crime Data: Still Screwy (Mar. 30)
Seattle.gov's Neighborhood Crime Into: Totally Inaccurate (June 27)
Please note that everyone I've talked to at the city has been really, really nice. I think they're doing their best with limited resources. And I have not had a chance to follow up with the SPD yet (I work full-time and am having a baby in seven weeks, so this little research project has not been a huge priority for me lately).
I mentioned that watching "The Wire" helped prompt my interest in this subject, but I have found absolutely no evidence of corruption or anything like that. It's possible that there's a perfectly good explanation about why the mid-December matricide incident was not showing up in the December numbers last time I checked (even though the woman was pronounced dead at the scene and the King County Medical Examiner's office quickly ruled it a homicide).
My suspicion is that there is a fair amount of clerical error at the SPD and at the city, and that's why the numbers are off.
What I'd like to see:
-- More transparency in the crime statistics. For instance, when the mayor's office announces there were 24 murders in 2007, maybe they could include a link to the names of the victims, or at least the dates of the incidents.
-- More information about how the numbers are collected and what they mean. What does it take for a murder to be counted in the reports as a homicide? I would think that the county medical examiner's word would be good enough. Surely they're not waiting until someone's been convicted in court? Anyway, just a little FAQ that addresses these questions would be great.
-- Independent action by the major news media. Instead of waiting for the mayor to come out with a press release about the number of murders in 2007 and parroting that in a news story, why not go through your own archives and tally up the numbers for yourselves?
-- QA on the published info. If you mix up all the August numbers with all the September numbers, well, someone should catch that. And it should be called out on the site.
-- Better disclaimers about the inaccuracy of the information. If you know it's wrong, just say so. Or take it down until it can be fixed.