Oakland, Calif.’s Real-Time Crime Map Uses Data to Drive Community Engagement

Oakland PD

In today’s world, there has never been a bigger demand for transparency than when it comes to how law enforcement reacts to crime. So to meet that demand, the city of Oakland, Calif., is launching its Oakland Police Department Calls for Service Web app.

The city’s IT department partnered with Esri, utilizing its ArcGIS platform to provide residents with real-time crime data via an interactive map on the city’s website. In this way, users can view the latest criminal and emergency activity on the map as it’s filtered through the Oakland Police Department’s 911-dispatch system.

Ahsan Baig, the city’s division manager of Public Safety Services and Business Applications, explained that the application was developed in response to increasing citizen requests for crime data in the area. If residents were seeing police cars in their neighborhood or curious as to why a police officer was down the street, they were voicing a growing need to be more involved in local criminal response.

“Now you have a unique application that not many agencies share. It’s all about transparency and data,” Baig said. “It helps the public to understand what’s happening in their neighborhood. It’s real time, and it gives a better perspective to residents about how the law enforcement agency is performing.”

The application works by posting all completed criminal responses on the map as soon as they have been deemed completed by the Oakland Police Department. For example, once a traffic citation is given and law enforcement officers determine that no further action is needed, the case will be closed and will trigger the Calls for Service application to add the citation to the map. Residents can even see how many 911 calls for service are happening in real time. Some information, however, may not be available to the public so as to protect the privacy and safety of victims.

While the Web application indicates a huge stride for transparency, similar technology also is expected to benefit police staff. A similar map-based dashboard was designed for internal use by Oakland police staff to improve efficiency and overall response times.

“They now know in real time where the calls are occurring and what [the incident] is,” Baig explained. “This is going to help with response time. We’re also looking into adding layers of information, so by including real-time officers responding to incidents, staff will be able to see how officers are performing.”

As a result of the highly successful launch, there are plans for the application to expand to other public safety departments in the future, including the local fire department. While the map-based data-sharing format is still relatively unique to Oakland, it may serve as a model for other cities around the nation to drive community engagement and data transparency.

“This information will be very helpful in getting more citizens involved and engaged,” Baig said. “It will help citizens to get information and increase the overall appetite for data consumption and data sharing.”

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