Two examples of the use of open data related to crime in the USA

Open DataFurther to official statistical reports, which we have habitually been echoed in this blog, open data portals and transparency regulations enable academics, researchers and journalists, to analyse data to obtain information about evolutions and trends whether they refer to crime in general or specific incidents. We will now show two examples of this analysis which take advantage of open data in the USA.

Murders of whites are on the increase

The news portal The Crime Report echoes a study which uses supplementary homicide reports of the FBI to analyse the increase in victims of homicides in the USA between 2014 and 2016 (which was 22%). While majority public opinion related this increase with tensions between police and Afro-American communities and police negligence in some neighbourhoods, this study focused on the increase in the deaths of white people, the biggest since the start of the 1990s. The hypothesis worked on is that this increase would be related to the increase in the consumption of heroin in the USA which has caused an incredible increase in the murder of white people.

Despite this, they recognise that the violence related to the drug market is a long way from the one caused by the crack cocaine market in the 1990s, and this hypothesis must be confirmed with more detailed studies in a local or neighbourhood context.

Advances in crime-related data

The FBI publishes official data about crime in the USA between September and October, but most big cities in this country have open data portals where they habitually publish their own data. Taking advantage of this greater frequency, and requesting further information from some cities, the Brennan Centre for Justice of the New York University law school publishes estimating analysis of the evolution of crime (which they update during the course of the year). In this analysis, they gather the data of the 30 biggest cities in the USA, and compare it with the official data from the previous year. It must be noted that this study is estimation-related, as it carries out projections of the annual data of the current year based on the data corresponding to the first six months and to the basis of the weight of crimes during the first six months in previous years.

Therefore, the first estimation report 2016 (from the month of September), projected a global increase of crime by 1.3%. Update (from the month of December), reduced this increase to 0.3%, whereas the final data (in the report published in June 2017) showed an increase of 0.9%.[1]

Although differences between the estimated evolution at these two different times and the final figure may seem to be large, it must be kept in mind that the final source, the FBI, also publishes a preliminary report at the beginning of the year with some six-monthly data, in which evolutions are also quite different from the annual evolutions.

[1] The two latest publications correspond to data estimates 2017 based on data from the first semester and updates in mid-December 2017.


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