Going beyond crime mapping: Launch of the Cornwall Crime Explorer

March 30, 2009 — Amethyst, the Information Hub for a Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP) in Cornwall UK, has recently launched their Cornwall Crime Explorer based on InstantAtlas from GeoWise. The aim of the Cornwall Crime Explorer is to report crime statistics at a local scale to meet the needs of both the local public sector partners and citizens.

The Cornwall Crime Explorer is the result of a collaborative effort between Amethyst and GeoWise to produce a Rich Internet application (RIA) for crime reporting. It reflects the years of experience of the Amethyst team in crime mapping combined with the application of sound statistical practices and data visualization principles from business intelligence dashboards.

Data are presented in highly-interactive tables, charts and maps on a single page to assist interpretation. User interaction is in real-time, ideal for data exploration. Commentary taken directly from static reports is embedded in a context-sensitive manner into the application to help people understand what they are looking at. Detailed background mapping from the Ordnance Survey (OS) provides a rich geographic context to the thematic mapping. Data are easily updated using Microsoft Excel.

Phil Davies, Project Manager for Amethyst, explains: "We have tried to create an interactive picture of Cornwall that allows users to compare any locality with all others. We wanted users to be able to understand the levels of crime for different crime types and to appreciate how these levels varied over a much wider area. We are also seeking to communicate how crime levels change over time. We believe the Cornwall Crime Explorer is a tool that both analysts and casual data users can utilise to support them in an initial 'scan' of the crime landscape."

Across England and Wales there is a network of approximately 370 Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRPs). They were set up under the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act. They are partnerships comprising of all local organisations (police, local authorities, fire and rescue authorities and local health bodies) and have a statutory responsibility to develop and implement local level strategies to tackle crime and disorder including anti-social behaviour and the misuse of drugs. They are required to submit an annual Strategic Assessment to the Home Office outlining their plans.

Phil Davies continues: "The Amethyst reporting platform is a strong mechanism for disseminating community safety information, engaging with partners and supporting the auditing and analytical requirements for the CDRP. While there is no current explicit obligation for CDRPs to share and publish their data online in this way, we wanted to demonstrate good practice. We also felt that our annual Strategic Assessment report to the Home Office assessing the evidence through a range of maps and charts suffers from the limitations of being a static document. It doesn't allow people to explore the data underpinning this report on their terms. We wanted to provide a 'living report' online that users could personalise, we could maintain and which would complement our annual report."

"Overall" says Davies, "we are very pleased with the presentational capabilities of the Cornwall Crime Explorer and we hope this will lead to greater empowerment through more effective engagement. We see InstantAtlas as being well suited to filling the gap between internal and external crime data reporting. The lessons learnt from the project are universally applicable to anyone delivering crime data online."

John Maslen, Government Solutions Director at GeoWise adds: "Development of the Crime Explorer has been a collaborative process. It demonstrates what can be achieved with limited budget using data visualization tools built as RIAs and designed to communicate local statistics. It contributes good practice in public crime reporting applications for other police forces and public safety agencies. I believe the Crime Explorer demonstrates an evolution from 'crime mapping' to more effective visual, interactive crime reporting."

About Amethyst

Amethyst is the Information Hub on behalf of the Cornwall Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership. It was set up in 2001 in response to the growing demand to collect and share local data to support Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRPs) in reducing crime and the fear of crime. They were one of the early innovators in the area of data sharing and crime mapping in the UK. They established a relatively sophisticated reporting solution which went live in 2002. Their work was seen as best practice and referenced in GIS and Crime Mapping (Chainey & Ratcliffe, 2005) and Crime Mapping - Improving Performance (Police Standards Unit, 2005 - see http://www.jdi.ucl.ac.uk/downloads/publications/other_publications/crime_mapping_guide.pdf). Phil Davies, the Amethyst Team Coordinator, has been with the project from inception and is well-known within the UK crime mapping community.
Visit: www.amethyst.gov.uk

About InstantAtlas and GeoWise

GeoWise Ltd's InstantAtlas visualisation software helps information analysts and data professionals create and manage interactive web applications that improve the management and visualisation of statistical data, and engage people in more informed geography-based decision-making. The GeoWise team has a unique blend of skills in data visualization, software, geography and statistics. GeoWise is an ESRI Holdings Ltd company after its acquisition in 2008.
Visit: www.instantatlas.com

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