System of giving police crime data to public attacked

Growing concerns about neighborhood crime trends have led to frustrations with the Police Department’s “CrimeMaps” system, a six-year-old technology that pinpoints where crimes have occurred in The City.

The system came under fire Tuesday at a Board of Supervisors meeting. Supervisor Tom Ammiano called for an inquiry as to why the expensive geographic information system is “limited.” For instance, homicides don’t appear on the map.

Ammiano isn’t the first to criticize the technology. In 2007, the Police Commission called on the Department to start collecting neighborhood crime statistics that could be compared on a year-to-year basis.

Although the latest efforts will be revealed at a Police Commission meeting tonight, an early look at the statistics revealed that there is still much work to be done. While some district captains have provided recent data, others have collected data only up to July.

But once the process of collecting local data is finalized, anybody can log on to a police Web site and compare crime trends on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood and year-by-year basis, Police Commission President Theresa Sparks said at last week’s meeting.

“To give overall crime statistics for the whole district is misleading for everyone,” Sparks said, about a request for yearly reports on neighborhood crime data.

The police data-collection process is in the process of a major upgrade, according to spokesman Sgt. Wilfred Williams. There are three components to The City’s police crime analysis. One set of data goes to a crime analyst, another goes to police officers. What the public sees is a redacted version, and the department is working to remedy the flaws.

“The public version itself is under repair for both hardware and software upgrades and should be completed in the near future,” Williams said.

Upgrades will also provide the public with information beyond the 90-day threshold, Williams said.

bbegin@examiner.com 

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