Crowdsourced Crime Analysis, Part Three

Last month, I wrote about the inexplicable – and so-far unsolved – series of church burglaries that has been plaguing the city of Saint Paul, Minnesota for the last year or so, and published a bunch of data on the crimes, in the hopes that civic-minded members of the public might want to take a stab at crime analysis. It’s a fairly novel idea, but one which I firmly believe has a lot of potential, and not just as a proof-of-concept.

A couple readers have offered their insight, either in comments here or by email, and I‘ve been slowly sifting through the data. I’ve been hampered by having to rely on OpenOffice (I don’t have a copy of Excel), and eventually Google Spreadsheets, to manipulate the Excel files with; others have been hampered by a lack of any sort of user-friendly framework with which to look at the data.

Those problems have, in one fell swoop, just been eliminated, thanks to some extremely kind folks in Pennsylvania.

DAGIRCO – that’s the Defense Analyst’s Generic Intelligence Requirement Company – are, despite the name, an intelligence outfit working at the cutting-edge of law-enforcement intelligence. (Which, as I’ve said before, sounds more impressive than it really is, given how far behind the rest of the intelligence community law-enforcement intelligence runs.) They have been generous enough – ridiculously generous, in fact – to provide a pair of tools for we mere mortals to use in this crowdsourced endeavor.

As their press release (PDF!) notes:

Company executives have adapted one of their law enforcement tools (the Geospatial Serial-Crime Analysis Tool — GSAT) to this particular crime series, and opened it to public use for free at This permits members of the general public to search for patterns in the crime data. DAGIR Co. has also created a public wiki for the project at, allowing collaboration and analysis from around the world. This pro bono project presents a terrific opportunity for students, concerned citizens, neighborhood and civic leaders, as well as analysts and academics from around the world to more coherently organize and co-ordinate their efforts.

I am ridiculously in awe of their generous efforts, and strongly encourage you to not just check out these new resources, but make use of them. I will be, and I hope you – and everyone you know – will join me. I can’t promise we’ll make the world a better, safer place… but we can sure try.

Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on March 11th, 2009| 4 Comments »

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  1. On 3/11/2009 at 4:08 pm Nemo Said:

    Even if you don’t live in the Twin Cities, or aren’t too concerned by burglaries, I really hope you’ll help contribute to this effort, if only because this is a somewhat novel use of “Web 2.0” both in the “real world” (“meatspace”) and particularly in the intelligence community, law-enforcement or otherwise. I honestly believe that few business fields could benefit as much from “crowdsourcing” as the intelligence field; it’s not just the potential amount of effort that can be brought to bear on a problem, but the vast number of different approaches – “new sets of eyes” – as well.

    Everyone keeps talking about transitioning intelligence from “need to know” to “need to share”, and while this sort of public crowdsourcing is perhaps a bit extreme for much of the IC, I think crime analysis can do nothing but benefit from public involvement.

    It’s neat, it’s fairly cutting-edge, and there’s the real potential to make a lasting difference – either locally, in the short-term (i.e. solving some or all of the church burglaries here), or globally, on a longer timeframe (paving the way for future public involvement in crowdsourced analytic endeavors.) What’s not to like?

  2. On 3/11/2009 at 6:21 pm Kris Said:

    The tools are great and even an amateur analyst can make a significant contribution very quickly. EM is to be congratulated for getting the ball rolling and Dagir for picking it up.

  3. On 3/12/2009 at 11:07 am crblogger Said:

    This is a fascinating study you’ve created here. I just caught onto it today, but it’s very exciting. I love that way that the internet and web 2.0 is really changing the way that people interact with local law enforcement. As well, even beyond St. Paul, a project like this gives average people the chance to go in and look at the data and think about it and play with it. It give them a chance to actually play with raw data in a way that was almost impossible even just 5 years ago. Thanks.

  4. On 3/12/2009 at 11:26 pm Slap Said:

    Fancy stuff you have there. I still do it the old fashioned way. In this case how did the criminal benefit? From the list of stolen items not much. I say you are looking for juveniles and the attacks are random, I don’t think this is any kind of organized criminal ring. They may even be kids of folks in the congregation. It could also be homeless people looking for items to sell fast or loose cash. As for using your GIS system, it may be revealing to plot ALL the crimes that happened near the churches,especially home or business burglaries. Later Slap