How Safe is Your Suburb

How Safe is Your Suburb

View How Safe is Your Suburb

Created by
Space-Time Research (Karl Ots, Jo Deeker, Ray Thornhill) datasets used

NSW Crime Data

Other datasets used
2006 Population Census (from CDATA Online) - Australian Bureau of Statistics; LGA Map Boundary Shape File - Australian Bureau of Statistics

How Safe Is Your Suburb is an easy- to-use interactive web application that allows the public to gain greater awareness and insight into crime statistics in Local Government Areas (suburbs) in New South Wales. The tool can be used by residents, local governments, state and federal government, researchers, non-government agencies, and crime and policy makers to better understand the meaning of the statistics produced by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, and how the statistics can be applied to their lives.

How Safe Is Your Suburb embraces the Gov 2.0 philosophy by opening up a static dataset to the public in a useful way. The user can analyse and play with the data, comment on data, and then share their data with others.

For example, the user can choose different ‘reports’, make selections within each report to compare different types of crime over time, and then see which types of crime are more prevalent in their area. They can view an interactive thematic map of crime that provides a spatial visualisation of crime types across LGAs for a given year. They can also identify which suburbs have higher crime rates in total and in per-head of population. (It makes sense that there is more crime in more populous areas). Users can make comments on each visualisation they are working on.

The application mashes up NSW crime data with LGA boundary files and Census data from ABS. Space-Time Research has classified each offence into different categories to enable simpler analysis. More detail could be added to the application at a later date.

The application is built using Space-Time Research’s SuperVIEW product, and is hosted on the Google App Engine. In the spirit of a govhack style competition, our team of three (one database builder, one programmer, one analyst / writer) started working on the application just over 24 hours before it was due.

6 Responses to “How Safe is Your Suburb”

  1. Adam Kennedy says:

    This is a fairly reasonable website, with decent coverage of the statistics. Two things jump out though…

    Firstly, the polyogon simplifification is really really high, looking at central sydney shows a bunch of nearly useless triangles.

    Secondly, the data shown doesn’t really seem to control for population. In a lot of cases, the top crime region is “Sydney” (i.e. the city).

    It’s not really a big surprise to anyone that areas like this are high, as they have large populations. Controlling for population would have made the data more interesting.

    In general though, a competant entry.

    • Hugh says:

      The polygon thinning is partly a limitation of Javascript based mapping APIs being CPU hungry (in IE primarily) but it’s mainly due to the fact that you need to have a layer of polygons for each map zoom level to try and make them look Ok.

      I’ll blow my own trumpet and point out the CrimeFinder and GeoDemo Mashup Australia entries as one way to do it. It is a fair bit of work though. The GeoDemo site, for example, has 7 sets of boundaries, but there are actually about 30 layers of polygons to make it look better whilst not degrading the performance.

  2. Jo Deeker says:

    Hi, thanks so much for the feedback. I think the points you raise highlight some of the challenges we face when it comes time to actually *do* a mashup. We simply left it too late to get started.
    We spent approximately 30 working hours putting this application together and if we were to productionise it, we would spend more than that time again getting the data right. The massaging required to join the data was more than we anticipated and we didn’t get finished. What the gov 2.0 community can learn from this is that while it is good to publish your data ‘as is’ for mashups, it needs to be joinable to other data and that usually means a fair bit of work.

    Our intention was to show that for a mashup of data to be more useful, it can be very valuable to do more than simply combine different data sets in a table or a map. Our different charts and maps provide different analytical views of the data, and help tell a more compelling story with the data.

    We chose to use a very generalised KML layer and keep it to one layer because it results in a very small file (250kb) which then is relatively fast to load (because we didn’t want an app that times out or takes ages to load a view). We do have the option to use other GIS technology like ArcGIS Server, which provides excellent caching and tiling of maps and would offer superior speed. We could also do what the GeoDemo site has done and provide different layers at different resolutions.

    On the data front, we did want to combine the data with ABS population data. Our original intention was to firstly, show number of offences by population count (e.g. number of offences per 1,000 people) to remove the bias of more crime occurring in more populous suburbs. Then, we intended to overlay other ABS census data (for 2006) to see if there was a relationship between demographic factors such as employment status, income ranges, age ranges, education levels etc. Now that would be a really interesting mashup. Unfortunately, we did not get that database ready in time for the competition deadline. I have a draft database but it’s not complete (we still need to cross-check our classifications of the offences and fix up a few coding errors), so we decided not to go ahead with it.

    all the very best,


    • Adam Kennedy says:

      This seems to be the comment from a lot of people.

      They knew where they wanted to be, but got caught by timing issues, leaving sites not quite living up to their potential.

      • Hugh says:

        If it makes anyone feel better about how much work they put in…

        The polygon display technology in GeoDemo and CrimeFinder was somewhere between 300 and 400 hours of tooling around 5-6 nights a week over a long time… (insert unhappy wife’s comments here). Online interactive polygons are far frem easy with the current generation of APIs.

        That said – don’t forget the point of a mashup is to cobble a good idea together so people can get the jist of what you’re trying to acheive. If you end up with enough time to get some build quality into it then great! But that’s the secondary priority of a mashup.

    • Mel says:

      It is great that this site has a lot of visualisation tools. Only critism is that not all crimes seem to be included in the “All” figure. Looking at the original NSW Crime Excel file shows in 2008 Albury had a total of 7248 crimes (not 7169), Armidale had 3000 (not 2192), etc.