Data Update – December

In last month’s data update on the Clery Crime Data Visualization Project, we described our next step simply as “review[ing] the data.” With three year’s worth of Clery crime data from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department (UWPD), we’re ready to do just that. Unfortunately for Jane, there’s nothing simple about it.

After stripping the UWPD crime log data out of PDFs, sorting the data by offense, and deleting duplicate entries, we’re left with 219 incidences of sexual assault, domestic or dating violence, and stalking reported on or near the campus—or so we thought. As it turns out though, there is still much to be done and a number of decisions that Jane will have to make regarding the data.

Let’s look at some of Jane’s challenges:

Disposition – “The current status of a particular crime report. Dispositions are updated within two business days of when a change is made, until 60 days from when the Time Reported, when the crime is removed from the Clery Crime & Fire Log (Log).”

When deleting duplicates, we merely removed identical entries. This seemed easy enough.  However, it appears that disposition—per the definition above—may be updated for a limited time. The result of which is, in some cases, a second almost-but-not-quite-identical entry with a revised disposition (as Jane was provided monthly PDF copies of the crime log that contain both the original and the updated entry for disposition). So, Jane will now have to go back and discern how this impacts our data.

Offense – “The nature of the crime committed. One criminal incident may lead to multiple offenses noted in the Log under one Report #. For instance, an incident in which one person procured liquor for another while using false identification will be listed under two rows as two crimes, False ID Possession and Underage Liquor Procurement.”

As clearly stated in UWPD’s glossary of Clery terms, a single criminal incident can result in more than one entry in the crime log. Indeed, Jane has come across this. The big question is whether to display each crime individually, or to display concurrent criminal acts as a single incident.

Date Occurred – “The date and time that a crime was reported to have occurred. When a particular date and time is unknown, an estimate is provided. If an estimate is impossible, Time Occurred is listed as Unknown.”

While most crimes are documented as occurring on a specific day or within a defined date range, some entries name the month, semester, or–in rare incidences–the year in which the crime occurred, if known at all. Likewise, specific times are sometimes provided; other times, time ranges or no data is given. Jane suspects that this practice of estimating when a crime occurred will complicate how we might display or filter the data.

Location – “The street address or intersection where a crime was reported to be committed.”

While the location data is largely straightforward and useful, Jane will also have to consider how to treat entries such as “on campus,” “on campus residence hall,” “on campus, student housing,” or “off campus.” Some useful definitions are provided in  the 2017 Annual Security Report & Annual Fire Safety Report, though it is still unclear how these entries will impact Jane’s efforts to visually display location data.

For more on the Clery Crime Data Visualization Project, check back in with us again next month for our latest data update. We’ll start examining the data a little closer, and explore the feasibility and utility of visually displaying data. See you in the new year!

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