Advocacy to maintain access to crime data (SpotCrime.com)

#1

Hey Brigade members,

I just got off a call with SpotCrime, a company that aggregates crime data, standardizes it, and then publishes it via API and on a map. (They make money from the advertising.)

They called up Code for America because they’re looking for local allies to advocate to maintain access to open data – specifically a bunch of jurisdictions that are about to see the existing open data cut off.

Read more in this GovTech article:

From the article:

News of the split between Socrata and Motorola Solutions was disconcerting for some, such as market developer Brittany Suszan of SpotCrime, who feared the loss of a major open data resource.

Brittany says that this largely affects many jurisdictions in Maryland, California, and Utah, but any police department that is a client of Motorola Solutions is affected.

If anyone is interested in doing some open data advocacy around this work, reach out to me and I will connect you to Brittany. Any improvement to open data that would be helpful to your project would also be helpful to them, so perhaps they could also be helpful to you in advocating for something you’d like to see locally.

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#2

I followed up on Tom’s offer, and just got off the phone with the SpotCrime folks. (I’ve been working on OakCrime.org, Oakland’s effort to pump Oakland Police Department data to our citizens, and have been tracking SpotCrime for awhile.) While I still have serious concerns about some aspects of their for-profit products, I also think there is sufficient overlap between their agenda and CfA’s that we should think about advocating with them for preserved access to public data.

In the past, commercial crime data vendors like TylerTech (the company that acquired Socrata) have provided much less data than cities/counties have published directly via portals, like Socrata’s! (Does the consolidation of the data publishing industry remind you of Game of Thrones?!) So getting Motorola and TylerTech to agree that, while they work out their other corporate issues, these existing data sources will remain alive (via CKAN or ESRI’s ArcGISPortal or <your suggestion here>) seems like a good request to make of them.

Go to moto.data.socrata.com and you’ll see a list of ~500 city and county agencies that currently provide their public-facing data sets there. The immediate concern raised by the GovTech article above is: what happens to these feeds after June 2019?

Next steps: could we mobilize local brigades to contact any agencies near them to lobby with their local Socrata/now TylerTech contractor for an agreement like this?

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#3

YES! We’ve been politely dancing with LexisNexis Community Crime Mapping now for two years. Their contract with our local government clearly violates both state and federal statues when it comes to open records, freedom of information, and to accessibility of public data.

We pay this vendor $170K annually just to host our crime data on their servers and prevent it from reuse or scraping. There’s a lot more here on their deceptive business model:

Government agencies, in many instances, have given contractors exclusive rights to the data. The government then removes it from public view online or never posts the data, laws and documents that are considered public information.

Public datasets that state and local governments are handing off to private contractors include court records and judicial opinions; detailed versions of state and local laws and, in some cases, the laws themselves; building codes and standards; and public university graduation records.

Much of the information collected and stored by private data companies such as LexisNexis, Westlaw or CrimeMapping.com is not available to the public without a price. The information that is available often is not searchable, cannot be compared with data from other jurisdictions and cannot be copied unless members of the public pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in subscription fees.

From the original source:

“This is public data. I should be able to print it on my underwear if I wanted to,” Drane said.

Note, @ninakin, it looks like this vendor was found to be complicit in underreporting crime rates in coordination with city officials a few years back.

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#4

Hey Carl - Brittany with SpotCrime here. We have resulted to FOIAing the data from Savannah. Not optimal way to get data, especially if other groups want the info too. Feel free to ping my email and I can get you info on the file we request, maybe you can hop on the same request.

#5

email is brittany@spotcrime.com