Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have been experimenting today with tweeting every incident they deal with. The novelty value of the initiative has been widely reported – but local newspaper the Manchester Evening News has taken the opportunity to ask some deeper questions of the data generated by experimenting with data visualisation.
A series of bar charts – generated from Google spreadsheets and updated throughout the day – provide a valuable – and instant – insight into the sort of work that police are having to deal with.
In particular, the newspaper is testing the police’s claim that they spend a great deal of time dealing with “social work” as well as crime. At the time of writing, it certainly does take up a significant proportion – although not the “two-thirds” mentioned by GMP chief Peter Fahy. (Statistical disclaimer: the data does not yet even represent 24 hours, so is not yet going to be a useful guide. Fahy’s statistics may be more reliable).
Also visualised are the areas responsible for the most calls, the social-crime breakdown of incidents by area, and breakdowns of social incidents and serious crime incidents by type.
I’m not sure how much time they had to prepare for this, but it’s a good quick hack.
That said, the visualisation could be improved: 3D bars are never a good idea, for instance, and the divisional breakdown showing serious crime versus “social work” is difficult to visually interpret (percentages of the whole would be more easy to directly compare). The breakdowns of serious crimes and “social work”, meanwhile, should be ranked from most popular down with labelling used rather than colour.
Head of Online Content Paul Gallagher says that it’s currently a manual exercise that requires a page refresh to see updated visuals. But he thinks “the real benefit of this will come afterwards when we can also plot the data over time”. Impressively, the newspaper plans to publish the raw data and will be bringing it to tomorrow’s Hacks and Hackers Hackday in Manchester.
More broadly, the MEN is to be commended for spotting this more substantial angle to what could easily be dismissed as a gimmick by the GMP. Although that doesn’t stop me enjoying the headlines in coverage elsewhere (shown below).
UPDATE: The data is also visualised as a word cloud and line chart at Data Driven.