One of my colleagues at the Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department sent me this link yesterday, to a map application published by the Houston Chronicle. She knew I would be interested both in the subject matter--officer involved shootings--and the technique used by the newspaper in creating a simple and clever application with filters for querying the data. Making something like this would have been a huge and expensive undertaking just a few years ago. Now, you can do some incredible things in the GIS world quickly and with free or low cost software.
Many newspapers around the country are publishing web mapping applications, but this one from Houston is a particularly nice example. The Chronicle's embedded interactive map was created with ArcGIS Online, and uses the same template and style as several of the small, special purpose apps we deploy at the City of Lincoln for such tasks as looking up parcel ownership, accessing the City's traffic cameras, or displaying Lincoln Fire & Rescue pre-plans.
I used to build large GIS projects that included dozens of layers, fulfilled a myriad of uses, and had scores of controls. Now, I'm increasingly a fan of small, simple apps that do one of two things very well: more simple, with fewer layers, buttons and controls. As a byproduct of this approach many of these apps work quite well on mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones.
That's a lot of officer-involved shootings in Houston over a four year period. I realize that it is a huge metropolitan area, but still.... Is it just the size of the population? I wonder how the rate of shootings today would compare to the days of the wild west. I couldn't find a link to it, but several years ago I read an article describing research about fatal shootings in California during the gold rush of the mid-19th century. The researcher had gathered contemporary news reports, and using population estimates concluded that the rate of shootings was far, far higher than even the most violent contemporary cities.