We’ve been putting the alpha release of ScraperWiki though its paces by grabbing a few datasets and poking about with them.
One of the things we have been taking a look at is police priorities across London, as set by local people.
Under the Safer Neighbourhoods scheme, each council ward has a dedicated team of police officers and a panel made up of local people, who help set three or four priorities for the police in the area. The idea is to let locals tell the police what’s most affecting their community.
Most police forces publish these priorities somewhere on the web, but there’s no central register where you can compare them, and no way of checking when they change. So, just the sort of thing we are building ScraperWiki for then!
We set about scraping the data for all 624 wards in the Metropolitan Police area, like this one, and came out with somewhere near 1,800 priorities. The top ten (tidied up a bit*) is here:
- Burglary (364)
- Groups of youths (359)
- Motor vehicle crime (193)
- Drugs (187)
- General anti-social behaviour (124)
- Alcohol (66)
- Road safety (63)
- Youth engagement (53)
- Motorists (40)
- Robbery – personal property (37)
The first thing that jumps out is the lack of variation: the top five priorities account for around 70% of the total of all priorities. Does that say anything about how well the system picks up local concerns? Or is it just that the problems facing communities across London are more or less the same?
Secondly, ‘burglary’ and ‘groups of youths’ are the run-away winners in the priority stakes. The latter raises questions about how many younger people sit on the panels that set local priorities. What is the demographic make-up of each panel – and does it reflect the fact that 40% of Londoners are under 30? Unfortunately, that data isn’t available to scrape.
Finally, it’d be fascinating to compare the data by area – do Islingtonites worry about the same things as natives of Kensington? How do the concerns of well-heeled Harrow differ from deprived Hackney? We haven’t made these comparisons, but then we’re programmers, not journalists.
Anyway, if you want to explore the data yourself we’ve uploaded it to a Google spreadsheet. Please let us know if you do anything fun with it (and journalists, please give us a credit if you use it anywhere 😉 ).
If you are interested in scraping the priorities for your local police force (it would be great to get every force in the country), please get in touch with us and we’ll send you an invite to our alpha site.
* Lots of priorities are prefixed by “anti-social behaviour”, e.g. “anti-social behaviour by youths loitering” or “anti-social behaviour related to alcohol”. We removed the term for clarity, so the above terms became “youths loitering” and “alcohol”.
We also merged similar or overlapping priorities, e.g. “prostitutes” and “prostitution”, or “groups of youths” and “youths loitering”. The original terms can all be seen in the “raw data” tab of the Google spreadsheet.
image (cc) http://www.wordle.net