Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Nice tool, but not available

Okay, I admit it: when it comes to data, I've never met a spreadsheet I didn't like. Whenever possible, I like to bring data to the table when decisions must be made. I realize that data isn't always available, isn't always complete, and isn't always accurate. But in many circumstances, there is good objective data that can help us manage more effectively.

I keep quite a bit of data on spreadsheets for all manner of topics, many of which are covered with some frequency here in my blog. Whether it's changes in false alarms, the impact of problem-oriented policing projects, the trend in fuel usage, or the pattern of pumpkin smashings, data can inform and even amuse.

So I was pleased a couple of weeks ago to discover that the FBI has launched a table-building tool for crime statistics. It is similar to the same kinds of tools the Lincoln Police Department and the Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice have made available for years.

For managers and analysts who frequently need comparative data across time or from other cities, the FBI's new offering at http://ucrdatatool.gov is pretty sweet, and simplifies the task of wringing such data out of the full Uniform Crime Report.

Of course, due to the current shutdown of the Federal government, the site is not available at present. If the Congress gets its act together sometime, though, it's worth checking out.


Steve said...

I agree data can be useful, but only in the hands of someone who knows how to use it logically. I'm reminded of the old standby of those who want to keep pot on the list of illegal drugs; 97% of heroin users started out by smoking pot (or some such similar claim). Even if true, it doesn't logically follow that smoking pot will result in people using heroin, which is what they were trying to imply. It might just as easily be true that less than one percent of pot smokers go on to use heroin. I'm not bringing this up as a "legalize pot" argument, simply an example of people using data illogically.

Anonymous said...

"Of course, due to the current shutdown of the Federal government, the site is not available at present."

That's just "shutdown theater", performed by the executive branch. The web sites are still there, but they've blocked access in order to cause the taxpayers pain.