Wednesday, March 20, 2013

On a mission

A comment on my post yesterday about public safety mobile applications mentioned a forthcoming app called GeoParade.  From the information on the website, and on the developer's blog (Canadian crime analyst Joseph Glover), it appears very similar to the "Missions" function in the Omega Group's CrimeView NEARme, the application that was born here in Lincoln as P3i.

Missions are user-defined areas to which information of interest is attached. As a police officer moves into one of those areas, the background color changes, and an information icon appears.  Here's what a Mission area looks like in CrimeView NEARme, along with the details that open with a click on the label.

Lincoln's Crime Analysis Unit Manger Andrew Dasher created this Mission yesterday, in response to a recent spate of burglaries that pop up in Lincoln from time to time.  The whole concept here is location-based services: delivering information to personnel in the field that is relevant to their current geographic location, using a map that stays centered on that location by taking advantage of the GPS capability of the device.

Mr. Glover's blog is about a year old, and has some gems for crime analysts and data hounds.  I really liked his tutorial on creating heatmaps in Excel, a technique I think does a particularly good job for large datasets with strong temporal patterns.


Steve said...

I enjoy technology as much as the next guy, but not enough to spend the time to fully understand how to use it all. I see the next smartphone is designed so you don't even have to touch anything to make it do something. It will follow your eyes or your fingers without even touching a screen or mouse or anything. While it would make for a cleaner display (I hate those fingerprints on my iPad), I'm not so sure I would like it. I have trouble now accidentally touching the screen and going who-knows-where places I never intended. I also look away while the ads are displayed on YouTube and other such programs, but what good will that do if the device puts the ad on pause until I lood back? I'd be happy to go back to Windows 3.0 where you could do anything you wanted in a variety of ways, and file things where you wanted them, instead of letting the software make all the choices for you while you end up frustrated trying to find out where that picture went that you just uploaded.

Anonymous said...

What are your thoughts on the possible downside of heat maps vs plain tables of numerical values), including color changes possibly giving a false impression of the magnitude and rate of change in data?

Tom Casady said...


Quite true. Applying a color ramp based on the highest and lowest numeric values can distort relatively small differences, making them appear larger. Including the raw number in each cell is one way to minimize this. You may have noticed that on our heat maps, standard deviation breaks define the color. This also minimizes the chance that small differences will appear large, but if the cell values are small to begin with, it is still potentially problematic. Data visualization tools and techniques can really help make relationships "pop" that would be submerged in tables, but it also requires a certain amount of discernment, and there is no substitute for being intimately familiar with your data.

RINGO said...

The National Institute of Justice published a blurb on Five Things Law Enforcement Executives Can Do to Make a Difference. It looks like #1 is covered:

1. Crime is rarely random; patrols shouldn't be either. Focusing on small geographic locations and times when crimes occur and targeting specific, high-impact repeat offenders can decrease crime.

Numbers 2-5 may provide additional ideas for future blog postings:

2. Quality is more important than speed. In most cases, thorough inventigations, problem solving and careful forensic evidence collection contribute more to arresting suspects than shaving a few seconds off of initial response times.

3. DNA works for property crimes, too. Collecting and using DNA evidence substantially increases the likelihood of solving property crimes -- leading to twice as many arrests and twice as many cases being accepted for prosecution than in non-DNA "traditional" investigations.

4. In police work, perceptions matter. When people see the police as fair, lawful and respectful, officers are safer and citizens are more likely to obey the law and comply with police orders.

5. Officer safety and wellness should be a priority. Safety training, certain shift lengths and using body armor prevents injuries and saves lives.

Tom Casady said...


For the benefit of other readers, we should mention that more information is available at the Five Things website: