Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Seattle Police Department and My Neighborhood Map

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.


The Rainier Valley Post said...

Thanks so much for tackling this. I'm looking forward to hearing you on KUOW in a few minutes. You go, girl!

JvA said...

Thanks for listening -- I won't be! I can't bear the thought of hearing myself ramble on the public airwaves.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for appearing on the show--good job. It seems the neighborhood HAS been deliberately overlooked/obscured..

Anonymous said...

Shoot...wish I had known you would be on the air...must have missed the "heads up" on this! On another note, I am totally blown away by how much you can juggle while being so close to your birth date. You Rock!!

chrismealy said...

Radio? What?

JvA said...

I was on "The Conversation" on KUOW mercifully briefly today. The last few minutes of the show.