Car crashes, snow, crime, and public data

no longer vacant Albany map clip
A clip from a map of vacant -- and no-longer-vacant -- properties in Albany, created by Tim Varney last year. See below.

Lots of interesting bits in this Daily Gazette article by Kathleen Moore about how police in Albany and Schenectady are using data*. Here's a clip, about how Schenectady police have been paying closer attention to car crashes:

By tracking car accidents last fall, Schenectady police pinpointed patrols in the Mont Pleasant neighborhood and saw certain crimes plummet by 12 percent in the last quarter of 2012. They are using the same system to respond proactively to crime throughout the city, in hopes of getting similar results everywhere.
Maps of crashes, drunken-driving arrests and other traffic violations are overlaid with maps of crime reports. Police patrols are sent to the hotspots -- locations where traffic problems and crime are high.
"What we know is, the driver that's risky enough to drive drunk ... is often risky enough to take other risks," said federal Highway Safety Specialist Shannon Purdy. "A lot of criminals are caught at seatbelt checks."

A section about the Albany police department mentions how the APD is using weather forecasts to adjust patrols.

Also: Schenectady mayor Gary McCarthy is working with UAlbany's Center for Technology in Government to build a platform that would allow city departments to share code enforcement data (say, about code enforcement), and share it with Albany and Troy.

More, please

That common platform is a good idea. And it's worth pushing even further: Why not created a Capital District consortium for publishing and sharing public data? The org could help develop tools, set common formats, and provide a clearinghouse for sets of public data. It would open the way for more orgs and people to get involved, and even maybe set the stage for new businesses. (NYC is already doing something along these lines.)

Sure, there are obstacles: time, money, attention. And civil liberties issues will probably crop up along the way. But having meaningful access** to data generated by your government is becoming a 21st century civil right.
____

* Yep, it's a Gazette article, but we have a feeling that link will work for you.

** A pdf that you have to file FOIL for is not meaningful access. It's a start, but we do a lot better.

Earlier on AOA:
+ A future timeline of Watson at RPI
+ Map: vacant -- and no-longer vacant -- buildings in Albany -- created by Tim Varney from data published in a city report last year

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It amazes me that people still pin budgetary issues for old post-industrial upstate cities on individual mayors. This is a nationwide problem for all but the largest cities. But it's depressing that issues like getting vacant or dilapidated properties back on the tax rolls or making it easier for small businesses to open are being addressed and no one even notices. Given that, exactly what incentive is there for any politician to do anything? I'll give all the candidates a fair hearing, Sheehan included. But if we want to have any chance of fixing our problems, we really need to start acknowledging the progress we have made.

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