The Times has been working with the LAPD and sheriff's department to ensure good data and today launches a new feature mapping crime across the city and a substantial part of the county. It will allow users to "analyze crime statistics, search historic crime patterns and receive alerts when several crimes occur in an area over a short period of time," says the story introducing the service. Sounds like a nice product. They say the kinks have been worked out from a previous effort.
The Times first approached LAPD officials in the spring of 2008 with a request for an automated, electronic feed of raw crime data. In January 2009, it went to sheriff's officials with the same appeal.
The location and time that a crime occurs, as well as the name of a person arrested, is public information under California law and must be provided by law enforcement agencies upon request. But creating a replenishing stream of data on all of the roughly 8,500 serious crimes each agency handles each month was a challenge neither had considered before and tested the limits of what they were required to do under the terms of the state's Public Records Act.
Although then-LAPD Chief William J. Bratton and Sheriff Lee Baca expressed support for The Times' request, problems arose almost immediately. For the Sheriff's Department, several months passed as technical hurdles, staff shortages and bureaucracy slowed the process. When sheriff's officials provided the first set of data, thousands of crimes were omitted or incorrect.
The case of the LAPD was more complicated....A Times review of six months of the LAPD's crime data revealed that the vendor's software program had taken more than 1,300 crimes with irregular addresses and wrongly located them at City Hall — making the Civic Center appear to be the city's most dangerous spot. The Times also found the LAPD's map was missing roughly 40% of the crimes that had occurred.
Right now on the Crime L.A. map, the areas of the city with the most "significant increase" in violent crime are in the Valley, both the far west end and the Sun Valley area. The weakest link, if there is one, is probably the Times' method of assigning neighborhood names. You might be put into a 'hood you and your neighbors and the city didn't know you were in. (Inside LAO laugh: the base map the Times uses shows Wahoo, Calif.)