Reinvent Albany is big champion of open government, and we cheer agency efforts to open data, provide maps, and chart data of particular public interest. As co-Chair of the NYC Transparency Working Group, we have also pushed NYC agencies to release data, including the NYPD. So, we were interested to see NYPD’s November 30th launch of an interactive map of the TrafficStat database. TrafficStat is a weekly meeting held at police headquarters with precinct command staff, who review NYPD efforts to reduce injuries and deaths to pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. According to NYPD, the new TrafficStat map uses the same data the police do.
The new site displays the location, date, and time of recent traffic collision, injury, and fatality on New York City streets. It does not include summons data, which is extremely useful to researchers who want to understand the connection between police enforcement and traffic injuries and deaths, and to advocates and community leaders who are concerned about the level of police traffic enforcement in their neighborhood. Also, unfortunately, the TrafficStat map does not actually make any of the underlying data available to the public. (When it was launched in March 2016, NYPD’s CompStat 2.0 crime map also did not link to or publish underlying data.)
It is a basic best practice for government agencies to publish or provide a one-click link to the data populating online maps. Without the underlying data, the interested public cannot fully analyze the data, combine it with other data sets, or assess its quality.
NYPD’s TrafficStat should include links to—or downloads of—the underlying data, like the Vision Zero map, which provides downloads of more than twenty data sets. Additionally, the NYPD has published a vehicle collision open data set on the city’s Open Data Portal for two and a half years. The NYC open data portal lets anyone map a data set right in their browser, without downloading anything or installing any software. Users who do not wish to map the data themselves can choose from one of the dozens currently on the portal.
At the very least, the TrafficStat map ought to directly link to the data on the open data portal. Currently, users have to click “Additional Information” on the TrafficStat page, then click “Maps & Data”, and then scroll to the bottom of that page and click the link to the data in the disclaimer. However, this takes users to the Department of Transportation’s Vision Zero data set. It does not appear that the NYPD links to its own data (with summons) anywhere.
Likewise, for the CompStat 2.0 site, the link to “Additional Crime Stats” goes to the NYPD’s site instead of to the NYC open data portal. The NYPD publishes limited aggregate crime statistics on its site, but detailed incident-level records for a decade of crimes on the NYC open data portal. There is currently no link to the portal anywhere on the NYPD web site, so users of the CompStat 2.0 site may have no idea that there is an enormous wealth of open crime data available to them.
The NYPD has made tremendous strides in opening its data over the past few years. It should spend less time building new maps which lock up its data, and link users to the department’s accomplishments on the NYC open data portal.