Long a city with a reputation for withholding information, Chicago now wants to make public every crime over the past 10 years — a highly unusual move among the nation’s major police departments.
Millions of crime statistics dating to 2001 will be posted online in a searchable database, slated for a Wednesday launch, although a police press official told msnbc.com that could be delayed. It will be updated daily, providing fodder for residents to evaluate their own neighborhoods, academics to study crime and techie types to create websites or apps.
The release is the latest attempt by the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who took office in May, to make city dealings more open and counter Chicago’s reputation for entrenched systemic corruption and backroom deals. Chicago officials recently posted online the salaries of city employees, city contracts and lobbying data, with more information expected in coming months.
“It’s a whole new era of openness and transparency,” said Brett Goldstein, the city’s chief data officer and former police officer. “You determine your own analysis.”
While some city critics are skeptical, Chicago’s crime data release goes beyond what other major police departments do, crime experts say. Besides listing every crime over the past decade — some 4.6 million incidents — the database also lists each address, if there was an arrest, the police beat, city ward and case number. That includes everything from sidewalk arrests for marijuana possession to homicides.
The 10-year database was not online during msnbc.com ‘s Wednesday morning search, but the one-year database revealed 343,501 reported “incidents of crime,” dating from Sept. 10, 2010, to Sept. 3 of this year. The seventeen-category database offered crime descriptions ranging from liquor license violations to gambling to homicide. Someone browsing narcotics crime can find out whether a violation occurred on the sidewalk, in a residence or other location, and even search crimes by city block or latitude and longitude.
But those seeking for a wealth of details on the site may be disappointed. A June “flash mob” robbery of a Walgreens near Chicago Ave. reported by NBC’s affiliate in Chicago is described simply as theft at a small retail store.
Prior to Wednesday, Chicago offered a 90-day glimpse of crime in a mapping tool. The city added a yearlong database earlier in the summer.
Chicago’s data won’t include some cases that are under federal investigation. Also, the database won’t specify if the shooting was police officer-involved, for instance, though all homicides will be in the database, city officials said.