Philadelphia releases new tool for searching crime in the city

Want to see reported crimes near your home address over the last 30 days? Go to this map, and search (top left).

That’s the new tool the city of Philadelphia released Wednesday, designed to boost government transparency. It’s a collaborative effort by the city’s innovation office and the Philadelphia Police Department.

A full spreadsheet of major crimes — 594,000 and counting — stretching back to January 2006 is also available for download. There’s also an API the city wants outside web developers to build new tools with.

It’s all a part of Mayor Michael Nutter’s open data initiative, which was formalized in April.

“What better place to start than the public safety arena,” said Adel Ebeid, the city’s chief innovation officer. “This is the first announcement around open data, but there will be more in the future around other data sets.”

Philadelphia now joins cities like Baltimore and Chicago in releasing crime data online. There, officials say, crime records are one of the most accessed public data sets.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey says the crime data (updated daily) will contain no victim information. It will include all homicides, rapes, robberies, burglaries, thefts, auto thefts and aggravated assaults. Ramsey says there will be additional privacy precautions for sexual assault cases.

“We’re trying to get this information out as quickly as possible, so these crimes are not yet verified,” Ramsey said. “This is just the raw data that we’re pushing out. But some information is better than no information.”

Ramsey cautioned reporters that some data is likely to change after going through the Uniform Crime Reporting process.

“But for the average citizen, they just want to know what’s going on now,” Ramsey said. “If I’m getting ready to buy a house and I want to run an address, I want to know what’s happening now.”

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