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Dashboard for Oakland police

Oakland builds real-time crime apps for residents, police

Ahsan Baig’s first idea was to build a web app that Oakland, Calif., residents could use to check for incidents in their neighborhoods as reports and responses are moved through the city’s 911 dispatch system. 

According to Baig, Oakland’s division manager of Public Safety Services and Business Applications, the Oakland Police Department came to his team asking for a way to publish its 911 call data.  “They wanted to provide it as a spreadsheet,” Baig said.  As it happened, however, Baig’s team was in the middle of a major GIS platform upgrade.  “We looked the request and said, ‘You know, there’s a better way of doing this. We could put together an application that would provide you with more of the information that you’re looking for.’”

Baig turned to his primary GIS software provider – Esri – for help building the app, which was developed using Esri’s ArcGIS platform.

Three months later, in June 2015, the Oakland Police Department’s Calls for Service app launched.  The web-based app allows residents to view incident reports in near-real time, either as point data on the map of Oakland or in tabular form.

For now, the information provided is succinct, including only the date and time of the incident, a very brief (1-4 words) description of the incident, the police beat, council district and an incident number. The app also does not include information on some categories of crimes – rape, terrorist threats, suspected child abuse – that may either involve ongoing security issues or violate victims’ rights.

One big surprise for Oakland Police was that when Baig’s team built the public app, they also built internal dashboards for the officers.

“When we were building this application for residents, we just started building an internal application,” Baig said.  Not surprisingly, the internal app offers access to much more detailed data. Each area commander has a custom dashboard that focuses on data for that area, including more details about the incidents and real-time information, including which officers are responding, their level of experience and skill sets. 

The response to the internal dashboards was very enthusiastic.  “Our command staff was really amazed," Baig said.  As a result, “we’re using that internal application as a launching pad.  We’re going to have more layers of real-time information, including vehicle locations.”

While the public Calls for Service app has not been available long enough to provide meaningful measure of impacts, Baig said the site gets “a good number” of hits. 

“So far, we have very positive feedback,” Baig said.  “People are liking it.”

He added that residents also have started asking for the information to be sent out via RSS or XML feeds, a feature that the city expects to add in the near future.

Baig also is looking into adding a one-click way for residents to provide information about incidents.  “Maybe when you open up an incident, we can have a resident quick form where they can provide additional information,” he said, similar to the way residents can already contribute information about broken streetlights or potholes.

Oakland’s approach to public and internal crime dashboards has already generated inquiries from police departments in other cities, including Berkeley, Chicago and  several cities in Southern California.

Posted by Patrick Marshall on Jul 14, 2015 at 12:29 PM


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