StumbleSafely: Visualizing Crime To Map Safer Routes Home

StumbleSafely: Visualizing Crime To Map Safer Routes Home

Knight Foundation Winner Ian Cairns has created an innovative mapping project to help late night revelers avoid problem areas.

Michael Brooks
  • 26 august 2010

Knight Foundation Winner Ian Cairns introduces us to an innovative mapping project he is working on. His website, StumbleSafely, visualizes crime levels surrounding Washington DC bars and Metro stops. The site integrates crime statistics from the police department to create a map that gives important context to a specific user base.

Cairns explains:

the idea was that the site could help users see the latest crimes near their favorite bars so they could be aware of problem areas. Because we weren’t actually helping people map out navigation paths to get home, the real communications point we wanted to hit with the map was showing crime in proximity to bars and subway stations. Street names didn’t matter as much, and neither did highlighting any other kinds of businesses.

The D.C. police department was publishing crime data that we could scrape and add to the site to show crime locations, and the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration was publishing liquor license data that we could use to visualize density points on a map that corresponded to areas with lots of bars. For the base map itself, though, we needed little else in the way of data to accomplish our purpose. We were able to take shapefiles for roads, parks, and river features in the city and do a very low key map design that fit the aesthetic of the site and contained no extraneous information. People familiar with the city could quickly look at it and see right away what the crime situation was like in their favorite areas, without any other distractions.

The same platform was used for a follow up site called DC Bikes. This time, the crime information was compared with proximity to bike lanes, bike shops and thefts across the city.


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