Watch three years of Philly bike theft patterns

At the third annual Apps for Philly Transit hackathon, held in late September, dozens of civic hackers worked on projects on a range of transportation ideas – from finding and sharing bike parking spots to collecting climate data via SEPTA buses. (For more on the various projects see Technically Philly’s coverage.)

One project that caught my eye from the hackathon was this visualization of three years worth of bike theft data built by Chris Whong, a co-captain of Code for America’s NYC Brigade. Whong, by day, works for Socrata promoting the use of open data among developers.

Whong used a recently-released bike theft data set that spans from January 1, 2010 to September 16, 2013. It’s limited in that it only reflects thefts reoprted to the Philadelphia Police Department. While there may be some inconsistencies in reporting, the patterns revealed by Whong’s visualization demonstrates striking clusters of theft activity. 

“I think these types of visualizations are always useful to raise awareness about an issue.  Bike theft is usually a personal problem, or something you may hear about from your friends and neighbors, but putting hundreds of thousands of theft events onto a map in an easy to understand format gives people a much better sense of the size and scope of the problem,” Whong said via email. “On a more tactical level, a visualization like this could be used to do more in-depth analysis for a specific neighborhood, allowing law enforcement or community groups to better understand the day-to-day theft patterns in their area and perhaps hone their surveillance and prevention measures.”

You can watch Whong’s visualization below – but be sure to hop over to his site to view a lovlier full screen version, complete with timestamp. He explains his work creating the “D3 spatiotemporal visualization” there too. 

[October 16, 1:50pm: Visualization below was updated by Chris Whong to correct an error.]

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