Data and the City

City Council Takes NYPD To Task For Transparency, Passes Open Crime Data Law

Who doesn't like more interactive maps?

Screen Shot 2013-04-26 at 3.40.32 PMSay what you will about the New York City Council, but the group really likes its open data. One thing the group isn’t in love with, however, is the New York Police Department’s lack of transparency. So in order to increase the accountability of police officers, yesterday the City Council unanimously approved a measure that will create a crime map and database that will allow citizens to view crime data and locations in their specific neighborhoods, according to the New York World.

Although it is unknown if Mayor Michael Bloomberg will veto the bill, the City Council has enough votes to override any challenge from the Mayor. The bill, sponsored by Bronx Council Member Fernando Cabrera, calls for new maps which will allow users to search for crime statistics on monthly and yearly levels as well as by address, zip code, and police precinct.

The law requires the NYPD to supply monthly criminal data to the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DOITT), which will manage the maps. Currently the only crime data available comes from an incomplete series of PDFs, which only display crime stats at the precinct level.

The measure gained momentum after it emerged from journalists at Bronx newspaper the Norwood News that police officers in New York’s 52nd Precinct had stopped supplying crime statistics. For several years, journalists had to file Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests to obtain the stats, which delayed investigations and stories by many months or were sometimes outright ignored.

Public Advocate and mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio recently published a new “Transparency Report Card,” and the NYPD was one of only two agencies (the New York City Housing Authority being the other) to receive a dubious failing grade.

According to the report, the NYPD ignored nearly a third of FOIL requests last year. Council Member Gale Brewer, who ignited New York’s transparency movement last year with her open data law, told the New York World that the NYPD is one of the last remaining closed-off agencies in the city, and that this bill would help alleviate that issue.

“The NYPD does need to be pushed,” Brewer said. “I’m a big believer in community input on crime solving. If you don’t know where crimes are, it’s hard to be helpful.”

Can’t wait to see a map filled with Stop and Frisk icons.

Follow Jeremy Unger on Twitter or via RSS.