On the launch of Crime and Punishment in Chicago

Smart Chicago Collaborative is proud to launch our latest Civic Works Project: Crime and Punishment in Chicago. This project is a collaborative effort among Smart Chicago, FreeGeekChicago, and the Chicago Justice Project.

Chicago Police Department Memorial at Buckingham Fountain

Photo by Chris Smith / Flikr

The Crime and Punishment in Chicago project provides an index of data sources regarding the criminal justice system in Chicago. We aggregate sources of data, how this data is generated, how to get it, and what data is unavailable. This project is a key way we are using the Civic Works grant to use data journalism to uncover the value of data and cover the stories behind the data.

How it all came together

The Crime and Punishment in Chicago project is part of the Civic Works Project – program funded by the Knight Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust to spur support civic innovation in Chicago.  In looking at possible projects under this program, we wanted to hit on the area of crime since it was one of the major issues in the City of Chicago.

Smart Chicago had two partners for this project. The first was the Chicago Justice Project. The Chicago Justice Project is an independent, nonprofit research organization that strives to access and analyze data from criminal justice agencies to promote evidence based reforms that will better serve the justice needs of local communities. For this project, they researched the different sources of criminal justice data and identified gaps in the data.

We reached out to the Chicago Justice Project to get a much better understanding of not only the availability data, but how it related to the real-world criminal justice system.

Our other partner was FreeGeekChicago. Smart Chicago contracted out with FreeGeekChicago’s Supreme Chi-Town Coding Crew. FreeGeek Chicago is a nonprofit community organization that recycles used computers and parts to provide functional computers, education, internet access and job skills training to those who want them.

FreeGeekChicago’s Supreme Chi-Town Coding Crew first came on our radar at last year’s Migrahack when they won with their Finding Care app. We wanted to be able to be able to support their work in training new developers. To do this, we hired FreeGeekChicago to build the site using the same Tarbell platform that the Finding Care site used.

Here’s a closer look at the scope of work:

  • Generate content explaining the availability of data for the following areas:
    • 911 Calls for Service by Police Event Type
    • Data originating from police reports
    • Data regarding the decision to press charges
    • Incarceration data
    • Recidivism data
    • Data regarding re-integration program
  • On the development side:

What the site does

This project seeks to index the data that documents these crimes and how cases move through the local criminal justice system and what data is collected each step of the way. Chicago has had a wealth of crime incident report data, but that only encompasses one aspect of the criminal justice system.  We cover  911 calls for service, the daily notes of detectives who investigate crime, the material delivered to the court system when charges are filed, the records generated when those who are convicted arrive in prison, and so on.

The documentation is immense. Some is published. Much of it is not. Our goal is to create a flat simple guide to what is known and what is not. We also provide information on how to get the data when it’s available, as well as highlight cities and agencies who are national models for releasing criminal justice data.

You can check out the full site here at http://chicago-justice.smartchicagoapps.org/