Friday, August 30, 2013

Props to photographer

Stephen Shield is a young aspiring professional photographer here in Lincoln. I haven't met him, but I spotted some of his photos of a recent house fire near my neighborhood on his Facebook page, and was pretty impressed. That led me to his website, where he has some nice shots from his professional portfolio posted on his webstore. This one was particularly striking to me. Ah, to be young again. Back in 1971, you posed for a mug shot, and that was the extent of your senior photos.

I'd say Mr. Shield has a bright future. He has obviously taken an interest in photographing police and fire incidents in the field. I'm guessing that he's using a scanner app on his smartphone to tap into these events.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Saw it coming

This article from Gizmodo hit the web this week, and the story was also picked up by other tech sites, such as Tech Crunch. It took a while for the potential application of Google Glass technology to public safety to start causing some buzz, but I blogged about it back in March, using the same examples. That's a long time ago, in the rapidly-evolving world of mobile technology!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Museum panorama

I dabble just a bit in photography, and became interested in panoramic photos a couple years ago. While I am strictly an amatuer, my favorite digital camera has an excellent panoramic photo mode. One of my colleagues at Lincoln Fire & Rescue mentioned last week that he would like to have a panorama of the Lincoln Fire & Rescue Museum, so a snapped a few and picked this one. The museum is located in Fire Station 1 at 1801 Q Street. It has an outstanding collection of firefighting equipment stretching back more than a century. It would be an excellent visit for a school class, service club, or just a family outing. Please make an advance appointment, so we can make sure someone is available to host your visit.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Not quite as intense

Last month, I wrote a post called Micro-places in which I tried my own version of some research that studied how crime concentrates in very small places: in this case, a study of individual blocks in Seattle. My little project basically looked at the same thing in Lincoln, and showed similar results: intense concentration of crime on the "top blocks."

The post was certainly not my first about the geographic dynamics of crime in Lincoln, but for some reason, it got more attention than most, as evidenced by the online comments, and also by a few delivered to me personally. One of those came from a city council member, who correctly perceived that a lot of those "hot blocks" were in retail areas.  This is really pretty obvious when you think about it.  Many common crimes are related directly to retail activity (shoplifting, credit card fraud, forged checks, etc.), and many are related to the processes that bring people together in the same place at the same time: potential victims and potential criminals--something that happens naturally around busy retail areas.

The council member wondered if the picture would be different if I had excluded those retail-oriented crimes. I opined that it would, but I have my own formula for assessing such questions, something I call the "neighborhood well-being incidents." My 2004 intern, Becky Colwell, won a national student paper competition using this concept, which she named the "quality of life index." What Becky and I did was rethink the kinds of police incidents that most accurately reflect the safety and well being in a neighborhood.

Becky's paper describes this in greater detail, but in essence we thought that some crimes had very little impact: a fraudulent credit card swipe at the grocery, a shoplifted pack of cigarettes at the convenience store, a resident of the youth detention center assaulting a staff member.  Other crimes would more obviously influence the quality of life or the well being of the neighborhood: a residential burglary down the street, a child abuse in the apartment building, a drug arrest at the park, etc.. Using combinations of incident codes and location codes in the police database we excluded the kinds of crimes at places that seemed to have little relevance to well being, which in the process also emphasized those that do.

I ran the same GIS process as in my earlier Micro-places post, but this time filtering the incident and location codes using my neighborhood well being query. The resulting map is below, and a side-by-side comparison will show some similarities and differences. The key difference, though, is not really depicted by the map so much as the data. The neighborhood well being incidents are not nearly so concentrated as crime generally. Removing the retail and institutional crime reduces the intensity of the concentration. Whereas 81% of all crime was concentrated on the top 5% of the blocks, when only neighborhood well being incidents were examined, 49% of those incidents were concentrated on the top 5% of the blocks. That's still some major concentration, nonetheless. Some of that is simply a byproduct of population density, some is related to economic and demographic conditions, and since many crime types are integrally related to our automobile culture, traffic density is another important factor in concentrating crime along certain street segments.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cat tagged

If you are the type of person who is uncomfortable with the fact that your smartphone is tracking your location, along with your debit cards, credit cards, access control fob, Internet service provider, traffic cameras, toll booths, ATMs, Starbucks app, the EXIF data buried in your snapshots, and so forth, you've got one more thing to worry about: your cat.

I ran across this online article from Time last Friday. Essentially, cat hairs travel well, and are picked up and deposited by carriers--such as human beings--who transport those hairs from hither to yon.  You can test cat hair DNA just like human hair. Your cat may be tagging the places you've been when his little hairballs are being deposited from your sweater onto someone else's couch.  If your kitty's hair ends up at the scene of a serious crime, you could have some explaining to do.

Add "get rid of my cat" to the to-do list before embarking on a life of violent crime.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

How recent is recent?

Over the past decade, maps have become a common addition to news media websites.  As a GIS geek, I always appreciate a well-executed map.  Maps help me visualize data that would be, well, flat in a mere table.  I especially like interactive maps, the kind that allow you to zoom in and out, change the view, manipulate the data, drill into more detail and so forth.

For several years now, the Omaha World Herald has been using Google Maps, and more recently Leaflet, to produce several kinds of maps (and some other interesting data) on their website. Among these is a map of homicides.  This is what the map looked like Saturday morning.

The online version is interactive: you can click on an icon and get some details, including a link to a relevant World Herald story. The map is titled "2013 Omaha homicides," but there is no indication of its currency. One might assume that it presents the data as of the date of publication, but that is not the case. There is (understandably) a lag of several days before a new murder hits the map. The tabular data is presented below the map, so you can scroll down to see the most recent mapped murder and then add on any more that have occurred in the interim. The most recent murder on the map was on August 4th, so I added five more that are reported in the news since August 4th, but not yet mapped.

The Lincoln Journal Star also publishes many interesting maps, including a map of murders which appears in the sidebar of the "911 News" page.  This is what it looked like Saturday morning.

The map is labeled "Recent Lincoln Murders." There is no description of the date range, other than the term "recent." Like the World Herald map, there is also no description of the ending date, leading one to wonder, just how current is the map? You can click the icons on the LJS map and get the details and links, just like to OWH map, but unlike the Omaha map, you can't scroll down to take a look at the data presented in a table. So if you want to know the date range, you'd really have to click on each individual icon and keep track of the dates on a scratch pad.

I did just that, and determined that "recent" in the title of this map apparently means within the previous 12 full years, because none of the 2013 murders appears on the map, and the earliest murders mapped were in 2001. To be fair, if you took the link to "Large map," the title on that page would indicate "Lincoln murders, 2001- present." This is still not quite accurate, since the 2013 murders do not appear) but at least an indication that the map of "recent murders" starts in 2001. That's the same year that Apple introduced that fancy new-fangled device known as the iPod, which soon made your Walkman obsolete.

If you're a data hound interested in such things, it's hard to beat the Lincoln Police Department's online tool for generating your own statistical tables.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Return to the scene

My apologies for the lack of blog posts this week, but I've been on vacation.  Tonja and I celebrated our 40th anniversary with a return to the scene of our honeymoon in Vail.  I'll try to get motivated with some content next week!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Have a little faith

Tuesday's robbery at the Great Western Bank in downtown Lincoln was the latest example of something I've blogged about on past occasions: bank robbery is really, really bad choice for your criminal exploits. Bank robberies enjoy an exceptionally high clearance rate. Your chances of making a clean getaway are very slim. In the latest example of this, Tuesday's robbery suspect was in custody about four minutes after the alarm was received.

I generally don't put much stock in the comments posted on the Lincoln Journal Star's website, but  this one, from someone using the moniker RealityCheck, caught my eye:

It's nice when the police show up and apprehend their suspect. However, good thing the guy didn't run back into the bank when he saw the police waiting for him. Although the guy ended up not having any weapons, that was not know at the time. Let this be a training lesson in the future.

Apparently this reader concluded (perhaps from the after-action photo accompanying the article) that the police just pulled up to the bank and stood there in front of the plate glass in full view of the robber awaiting his exit.

Thanks for the tactical advice, RealityCheck, but you've jumped to false conclusion. Have a little faith.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Latest view

In my series of posts a few weeks ago on oblique aerial imagery I mentioned that Lincoln would soon be receiving new images to replace the series shot in 2010. That happened yesterday, as the new set was delivered to the City by Pictometry, the firm we contracted with for the 2013 aerial photography.

These new images not only update the rapidly-changing skyline of the City, but they are also shot at even higher resolution than the 2010 images.  Moreover, the City of Lincoln is now part of a consortium of governmental entities in Nebraska and western Iowa that collaborated on the project, and can now access one another's imagery.

Here are two examples. First, a view of Union Plaza in Lincoln, viewed from the west across 21st Street. This would have been little more than a ditch in the 2010 images.  Now, it has grown a big head. Second is a view of TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha.  I believe that would be the Creighton and Southern Illinois on the field. This would have been a busy construction site in the 2010 imagery.