Monday, March 31, 2014

New Orleans crime visualized

Posted By on Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 3:26 PM

A screenshot of the NOLA Crime Heatmap
  • A screenshot of the NOLA Crime Heatmap

It's hard to talk about crime in New Orleans without revealing something personal. When people from out of town ask me what neighborhoods are "safe" or "un-safe" I try to dodge the question and say that New Orleans is "patch-work" and the the important thing it to stick to crowded, well-lit areas "just like any other city."

Of course, this does little to explain the nature of violent crime in New Orleans. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to explain how, where and why crime happens in this or any other city. Not to say that data maps explain all the reasons behind crime, but they can be useful in tracking where it occurs and helping identify how those areas are different from the ones that don't see crime. But if you try to track crime on your own, that can be a challenge.

Thankfully, software engineer Benjamin Eckel has come up with a fascinating take with the "NOLA Crime Heatmap." Rather than just pin-pointing where individual crimes take place, the map takes the data and shows crime by its concentration in certain areas.

Eckel admits it's not perfect — if you zoom out enough all of Orleans Parish looks like a scorching red dot of crime and there are only a few categories to choose from compared to other crime mapping sites — but it does create some pretty cool visualizations.

Eckel posted the link to his heatmap on reddit and has been taking some positive feedback over there and said he is working on improving the site's algorithm and create more accurate maps.

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