Friday, May 01, 2009

Victoria police launches local crime stats online in MyPlace

I applaud Victoria Police for their latest foray into online engagement, MyPlace.

As highlighted in Victoria's eGovernment Resource Centre, the Victorian Police have launched MyPlace as,
An interactive mapping service provide by Victoria Police which is updated every three months so you can see what is happening in your suburbs and hear directly from your local police Inspector about the work being done by police in your neighbourhood.

It is great to see government making this type of public information more easily available to the public in more intuitive and usable ways.

The chat function is an extra bonus. Scheduled chats with the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police are a great tool for raising community engagement. The general public do not often get to communicate with senior police in a convenient and open environment. I hope in future this will be broadened to include chats with other senior Police officers, and potentially an ongoing blog highlighting the good work done by Victoria Police.

However, and this is a small however, I am disappointed that all the wonderful data provided by MyPlace is not available as a standard geoRSS or XML feed or API so that people can reuse the data (under appropriate Creative Commons copyright).

Google launched a wonderful feature last Tuesday which makes it much easier for the public to access, interact with and understand data from US government - doing a fantastic job of integrating data from various different local, state and federal agencies into a seamless experience.

If Victoria Police had taken an open approach to their public data Google, Microsoft and other online services could have shared the 'heavy lifting' of modelling the data by postcode at no cost to the government. This would have then allowed developers across Victoria and across the world, to build innovative new applications using the data.

These applications could include heat maps of crime statistics, integrating crime figures into rental, home and business purchase listings or school selections or even allow high school students doing school projects to compare crime stats with employment and income levels and other ABS census data (if the ABS made its data available in this manner as well) to explore the factors that lead to crime. Many other useful applications are possible, however will, for now, remain unexplored.

At the end of the day MyPlace is a great first step for Victoria Police - and should be considered by every other police force in Australia - and it would be fantastic to see it taken further into openness and transparency, by Victoria or others.

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