Phoenix Crime data feed. SpotCrime

Very familiar with the parameters of our last discussion about this. I believe we were first notified about this in 2012. The data was turned off to us in June of 2014, and then returned while that system had been updated until October 2015.

Open data makes sense to us because clear nature of it being fair and equal. When you give a vendor like Raidsonline exclusive control of the data, the vendors often try to maintain that monopoly control.

Here’s a letter from Raids to us sent last year claiming that open records requests are improper and potentially illegal.

Secondly, the CEO in a recent interview has fully admitted the data on his map is not open.

You are sending the public to a vendor that seems to have a clear distaste for open access. The terms on the website also immediately threaten the user for sharing crime information. The map is of good quality, but it deliberately retards any individual or member of the press from self tabulating the data. And since our last communication, the vendor is now owned by Lexis Nexus with far more resources and interest to preserve the monopoly over public data to increase the value to their corporate risk management clients.

Given the year and a half since we last corresponded, it was my hope that Phoenix would have moved towards a more transparent approach to publishing its crime data. A great example of a city nearby that has done this is Tucson.

We’ve been mapping crime in Phoenix since 2009, and we have thousands of subscribers in the area.

There is an immediate public harm to turning off the feed an not providing equal and fair access to the press. You limit public access to crime information. You limit its spread. You reduce public safety.

I understand the complexities of upgrading an RMS system, and I understand that this has been in the works at least since 2011. Why was there not an effort to have the new system at least provide the minimal transparency to the press and the public that the old system had?

It would seem to me that the new technologies purchased years apart from the old technologies would have much greater speed, reporting and flexibility particularly if the purchaser demanded the reporting capabilities.

I would also like to ask if you received a letter from Raidsonline similar to this:

I am uncertain of the timing of this letter, but it looked like Ms. Smith (now Hammen) was both President of the International Crime Analysts Association and an employee at Bair Analytics.

Again, the intent of the letter seems to say they want to make sure no one else has access to the crime data.

Why would any police agency collaborate with a vendor who seeks to limit public access to crime data unless the same limitations serve the agency’s purpose of limiting accountability?


Colin Drane

On Mon, Nov 9, 2015 at 12:40 PM, Karen L Kontak <Karen.Kontak> wrote:

Hi Colin –

Thanks so much for your email and voicemail. It has been a while since we all spoke about this (our agency had several postponements of our go-live date), which may be why it didn’t trigger in your memory, but we had previously explained to you all that your data feed would stop when our agency transitioned to its new records management system (RMS). This is because your data feed was fed from fields in our old RMS (which was called PACE), and when we went live with our new RMS (InPursuit) in mid October, the fields from the old RMS were no longer being populated with data. Of course you will still have access to the same data we make publicly available on, and when our City finalizes our Open Data Policy, you will have access to our open data via those channels as well. I have pasted the verbiage from the previous emails where this was discussed below in case it helps refresh your memory. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Thanks so much!


Karen Kontak, Police Research Supervisor
Phoenix Police Department
Crime Analysis and Research Unit – CARU
620 W Washington St, Phoenix, AZ 85003
Desk: (602) 534-8466 Fax: (602) 534-1760

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PRIDE Protection | Respect | Integrity | Dedication | Excellence

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Phoenix Open Data Policy

Open Data Policy

​In order to expand the city of Phoenix’ commitment to transparency in government, increased efficiencies enhanced economic opportunities and innovation, the City Manager recommends the adoption of an Open Data Policy (Policy). The Policy communicates to the community, departments and staff that making non-confidential data freely available using open standards will make the operation of our government more efficient, effective and accountable to the public. The Policy will achieve these goals while preserving the public trust in regards to the personal, sensitive and confidential data we possess.

  1. Departments shall exercise judgment before publishing public data residing in existing systems to ensure we protect the public’s trust.
  2. Data will be, ‘open by default,’ meaning, data is available for public consumption unless defined as personally identifiable information (PII), confidential and/or sensitive information and/or otherwise not permitted by law or regulation.
  3. The City Manager will implement standards that further open data efforts to promote:
  1. ​​​Transparency of operations in areas that are not legally prohibited
  2. Innovation in delivery of data through free web-based applications developed by internal and external parties

The city will encourage community engagement and use of the data through competitions/challenges to foster innovation. Information Technology Services shall be responsible for proving departments the procedures on how to publish and maintain datasets. The Law Department will determine appropriateness in making data available through the open data web portal.

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City of Phoenix > Police > Neighborhood Resources > Crime Statistics and Maps Disclaimer

Crime Statistics and Maps

Welcome to the Phoenix Police Department’s crime mapping website. Once you have read and accepted the disclaimers below, you will be directed to the RAIDS Online website. RAIDS online is a program operated by BAIR Analytics through a government contract with the City of Phoenix. The following does not constitute an endorsement of BAIR Analytics, its products or its services.

Using the RAIDS Online site, you can query and map selected crimes for your neighborhood within the City of Phoenix.


1) All aspects of the data provided herein are susceptible to a degree of error due to the complexities of the processes involved in compiling and presenting the data. No warranty, representation or guarantee is made or implied regarding the content, sequence, accuracy, timeliness or completeness of the data provided.

2) The City of Phoenix shall assume no liability for any errors, omissions or inaccuracies in the information provided, regardless of how caused or any decision made or action taken, or not by the reader in reliance upon any information or data furnished herein.

By clicking "I agree", I acknowledge that the City of Phoenix does not assume any liability for the use of this data, and that I have read and understand the disclaimers listed above.

"I AGREE" ( View Crime Maps and Stats)
"I AGREE" ( View Neighborhood Crime Counts)

"I DISAGREE" (View Phoenix Police Department provided crime statistics and maps)

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Use Case Toronto PD Crime Map Thorncliffe Assaults

We’ve spent some more time looking at the functionality of the Toronto Crime Map. As mentioned in an earlier post, we find it astonishing that the icons disappear at a normal zoom level.

One continuing thought we have about these types of maps is to compare the Toronto Crime map data to press releases of the Toronto PD that provide more specificity to the incidents address.

If privacy is such a concern, then shouldn’t the press releases have off center information. We recognize the absurdity of this comment because then no one would trust or use the press releases. We, at SpotCrime, feel that this lack of consistency will result in the same treatment for the Toronto PD crime maps. No one will trust or use them.

In picking out the press release data to compare to the map, we noticed a string of assaults in the Thorncliffe Park area in October – mostly against children. We’ve mapped these events on SpotCrime as best we can based on the address information provided.

Here’s the link:,69240337,69261628,69214936

To get to this map on SpotCrime. Sign in. Go to our Toronto Map. Change the date range to October 1, 2015 to Today. Deselect all crimes and then just select the assault icon. eLg34dmgM5lE-ezPt5S7HnWVxq5W2nCKGKx4tq9iYfLIB89W7D3KgfSR_3WitmkxakzBtJ9sHV5u6Lcbp2fnEm0MpsBX78XZXcnP_IIpntAJkKBe9s3FNIk744Pm2UK-XwfYkY6a

Finally, add the word “Thorncliffe” in the keyword search.

(In this particular case, we’ve moved the icons a few feet from each other because the address information is not specific or provides the same intersection. In a regular case, the icons would be on top of each other and details would just be on the crime list below the map.)

The end result of the search is three assaults against children and one where a man with a knife entered a woman’s apartment in the early morning. The assaults against children for the month of October in the Thorncliffe area range from a sexual assault of a eight year old girl, attempted abduction of a 9 year old boy, and another 9 year old boy sexually assaulted during a tutoring session. The Toronto Police have indicated there may be more victims of the tutor.

It is unclear to SpotCrime if there is a pattern in Thorncliffe or if October is any different from any other month in terms of sexual assaults. Toronto PD took great care to bring this information to light in their press releases, and provided some minimal address information. But their crime map has little information and or search capabilities to find this information.

Let’s say you heard that there were a few sexual assaults against children in October in the Thorncliffe area and you wanted to check the Toronto Police Crime Map. Got to the “public” crime map. Click past the disclaimer immediately limiting your rights in what you can do with the information. Then over to the right select assault and sexual assault. Then you need to zoom in to the area of interest. Typically to navigate a modern interactive map, one would use the address search bar. Notice the great detailed Esri map below – complete with topography details.


But where are the crimes we saw in the first map before we did an address search. If you remember from our last post, you now need to zoom out a few times to see crime icons.


The point here is that it is not intuitive to not see icons when you search and address, and unclear without instructions that you need to zoom out. Anyone using a map for personal use, is likely to search on their personal address, and then see no data being presented. In our view, most members of the public would determine this to be a glitch and good portion of the users give up on the search. At Spotcrime, we understand that you have to honestly engage the view with relevant information or you’ve lost their attention. If you really want to drive tips, you’ve got to capture attention and some semblance of usability.

We know very little about the crimes highlighted above except date and time. There’s no approximate address listed. By zooming out and in a few times, I can see that the incident on the 19th probably occurred at or near the Thorncliffe Park Public School. The incident on the 20th looks like it is near the Marc Garneau College Institue.

Let’s say you saw an assault near the public school on the 19th, and you considered providing more information. Would anyone take the time to zoom in and out to verify that was the right assault, or the tipster conclude there wasn’t a report for the event. There does not seem to be enough information to drive any tip information from the public.

Why do the assaults mapped by SpotCrime from the Toronto press releases not show up on the Toronto PD Crime Map?

The assaults SpotCrime has mapped do not show up on this map because they are out of the date range. The current date range on the Toronto map is October 19th to October 25th. When Toronto Police map gets updated, the public does not have the capability to search older crimes from even a week prior. Again, without any historical search, how is this product going to create use and drive crime tips?

If you add the assaults on the Toronto map and the SpotCrime map, you get six assaults in the area. What is missing is the assaults not reported through press release and not accessible on the Toronto map. There’s no immediate way to see any assaults that happened from October 1 to October 18th. How is this limited access useful for the community?

In an interview with CP24, Ian Williams indicated that this map was created because the Toronto police “recognized a need from the community”. However, I think you would be hard pressed to find any member of the public to determine this map as satisfactory. The effort to control the information under the auspices of privacy has rendered the map useless.

When you have a map with so little identifiable information, it is very difficult to check the accuracy and hold the data output accountable. Even if any of the dates matched up, it would be a guessing game if the incidents on the press release were the same on the map.

Since none of the Thorncliffe assaults we had mapped showed up on the Toronto PD map. We picked another press release a sexual assault of a 15 year old girl on October 23rd in the Empringham Drive and Sewells Road area.

SpotCrime has it mapped here:

Here it is mapped on the Toronto Police map:


How did we get the Toronto map to zoom in? After playing with the function, we realized that if you select a crime and then zoom in – the description bubble stays. Likely not intended, but we think we are able to pinpoint the random assignment of this particular crime two blocks away at another location.

Think about the level of difficulty to audit and correlate this one crime. We’ve taken the time because public crime mapping is our business, but the general public will have no patience for this goose chace. This map will not be used by anyone.

The problem with technology implementations like this is often the utility metrics never get measured. Toronto police have had the opportunity to mention they have entered the era of open data and no one has questioned whether this website meets any definition of open data.

Disappearing historical data and disappearing icons is not open data. Open data has no restrictions and allows the public to self tabulate the data and question the results if needed. The Toronto Police map brings no risk of accountability and provides no way to measure effectiveness. A most importantly has not utility to the public, provides no measure of public trust and does nothing to help reduce crime.

It’s a gossamer press release with an ephemeral crime map.

Solutions for Toronto:

1. Understand the true definition of Open Data. Know that the current crime map website for the Toronto PD meets no minimal definition of open data.

Produce an open data portal for the public that includes historical data. If there is a concern for privacy, use typical convention of block numbers for crime incidents.

2. Scrap the existing map. Throw it in the dustbin. If an open data portal is not within the comfort level of the police department, higher a vendor for free to map the data. Two vendors that will do this for free are and Both restrict the press from accessing the information. SpotCrime is not a fan of this solution because the data will not be open. But the public will get a much better implementation of a crime map with historical searches and a better visual representation of the data.

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TPS – Attempted abduction of boy, 9, Thorneclifffe Park Drive and Overlea Boulevard area, Update, Person of Interest has been identified

Toronto Police Service
News Release

Attempted abduction of boy, 9, Thorneclifffe Park Drive and Overlea Boulevard area, Update, Person of Interest has been identified

Monday, October 26, 2015 – 2:06 PM

53 Division

The Toronto Police Service would like to thank the public for their assistance identifying a Person of Interest in an investigation into an attempted abduction.

On Tuesday, October 13, 2015, between 8:35 and 8:55 a.m., a nine-year-old boy was walking to school in the Thorncliffe Park Drive and Overlea Boulevard area.

See previous release.

See previous release.

The Person of Interest has been identified and investigated.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-5300, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at, text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637). Download the free Crime Stoppers Mobile App on iTunes, Google Play or Blackberry App World.

Please download the Toronto Police Service Mobile App for iOS or Android.

For more news, visit

Constable Jenifferjit Sidhu, Corporate Communications, for Detective Sajeev Nair, 53 Division

There are no files attached to this release.

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Question About The Toronto Crime Map – Why do the icons disappear when you zoom in? Is it intentional? …. Yes.

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A Toronto crime-mapping tool is now available.

Broadcast time: 09:59
Thursday, October 8, 2015

Business Intelligence & Analytics

A Toronto crime-mapping tool is now available.

The TPS Maps and Data Portal has been designed to provide mapping and crime information in an interactive tool that allows users to view a map of the city, showing one or all major crime indicators for each week. There are also separate map showing all shootings and homicides.

Please note that the crime maps do not show exact locations of the occurrences. To protect privacy, these pinpoint locations are randomized to offset the exact location of the offence and no personal information is included. We have included hyperlinks to local Divisions and Crime Stoppers as a quick reference so the public can help solve these crimes.

“We have been posting this information in static maps for years. Now we have the technology to effectively share information widely and connect various information sources such as news releases into a mapping tool,” said Ian Williams, Acting Manager of Business Intelligence and Analytics.

Moving forward, the portal will also include other geospatial information, statistical requests, story maps of events and allow for links to news releases.

“This initial release highlights our continued efforts to streamline and standardize reporting internally and externally,” Williams said.

Updates will be sent publicly via Twitter (@TPS_Maps_Stats).

Please download the Toronto Police Service Mobile App for iOS or Android.

For more news, visit

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