Stamen Design's Oakland Crimespotting

Stamen Design, the incredibly innovative design firm/research lab behind such wonderful data visualizations as and Graffiti Archaeology, have launched Oakland Crimespotting, an interactive map of crimes in that city. Once a day, the system scrapes crime reports from the Oakland Police Department's Crimewatch site. The information about specific aggravated assaults, murders, acts of arson, vandalism, narcotics, prostitution, and a host of other crimes is then mapped onto Microsoft Virtual Earth. From the project description:
Oaklandcrime Our map view is completely explorable - it’s possible to pan and zoom, select date ranges in the past, and view specific kinds of crimes. You can also share links directly to a particular view of the map, which is important for sharing and publishing information. If you don’t have the required Flash plug-in to view the interactive map, we have a browseable crime database with maps in image form for combinations of dates and types of crime.

We believe that this map-first approach is a valuable and sensible way to publish information for people to use - everyone knows how to find their house, school, or workplace on a map, but few people remember relevant details such as the city council district or police beat these places occupy.

Previously on BB:
• Cabspotting: an alternate view of a living city Link
• Graffiti Archaeology Link


  1. Baltmore City has had crime maps on the web for years, as part of (former) Mayor Martin O’Malley’s CityStat project, which is based on the CompStat model of data and map driven policing. It’s not as elegant as this Oakland project, and it lacks Google Earth interface, but it’s been up for like four years.

    -john I

  2. So, the map I clicked on showes aggrevated assault as a shooting at an unoccupied vehicle, and almost all the simple assaults are domestic violence. Bitter, bitter, bitter. Where are our priorities?

  3. The Houston Chronicle had crime maps in the local (Northwest?) section of the paper. It was interesting how the vehicle property crimes were around the dense retail and apartments, and got worse the closer to the interstate highway.

  4. I work for a company that publishes real estate open house maps. It became an issue: when do you place each numbered icon on the map by hand and when do you let some software do it for you? I used to work late when hundreds of open houses were listed. Now we farm out that map to some company.

  5. My neighborhood (near the Ashby BART station, on the border of Berkeley) has had a rash of crimes, many involving armed robberies and muggings. I was surprised not to see more crime reports in my area. I personally think that the more publicity of the amount of crime, the more chance we have of police involvement in the area. This map might be a good step in that direction. Good to hear of it.

    Since we are right on the border, the BART police, Oakland police, and Berkeley police, all believe it is the other group’s responsibility to handle the area, so typically, we get little or no coverage/support.

  6. I’m one of the people behind Oakland Crimespotting.

    Paula, I’m glad to hear you bring up these kinds of border issues; the places where precincts butt up against one another are often where things slip through the cracks; it’s one of the issues we hope to address with these kinds of projects.

    Those interested in a comprehensive listing of crime map projects might find this list by Danny Sanchez interesting. We recognize that this is not the first project of it’s kind; with this project we’re trying to promote a model of crime and civic data reporting that’s simple, elegant and sharable. Sharable in particular has not been well addressed, and we’re trying to fix this – try copying and pasting a url for robberies around Lake Merrit in between August 29th and September 4th, for example.

    We’re hoping to expand the project to other cities in the future; in the meantime we’re focusing on supporting the neighborhood groups that have found it useful to track incidents in their neighborhoods.

  7. The Los Angeles Times has an amazing homocide map.
    Here’s the URL:

    One of the best things about the map is that not only are the crimes mapped out geographically, like the Oakland map, but you can click on the marker which locates the crime and open an article about the crime in detail. There’s a comment section too, which is totally chilling and heart-breaking, as friends and loved-ones write eulogies to the deceased and ponder the cruelties of existence. In my opinion, it’s one of the best websites ever. The statistics on the home page, breaking down crimes by race, age, sex and cause of death are illuminating too (there’s even a section for “killing by police”.

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