I really wanted to look for something fun and exciting for this blog post. Maybe a fun interactive visualization on what Baltimoreans are eating (sidenote: why on earth are people in the UK eating so much mutton?) or what Netflix movies are in their queues, but no, my options were limited and I had to go with the interactive crime map.
The Baltimore homicide interactive map did allow me to tap into my morbid curiosity. Although I won’t be sleeping for weeks, and I will now need an escort any time I come home after dark. This is how my zip code stacks up:
The Sun offers interactive maps for Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County. I’m not sure if this is where the majority of the crime is, or maybe it’s where most of their readers live, but I thought it was odd to only have maps for three areas. Why not have one for the entire state? I guess it may come down to man power and time.
I focused in on the City map. It offers drop down menus so that you can set up your own search criteria. This allows the reader to be really selective in how they see the homicides. This made sense to me if you wanted to choose your zip code or maybe to see if your gender/race was a target. But, if people are being murdered in my area, I don’t know that I care if it’s by gun, knife, strangulation or other (how do I prepare myself for other?).
The interactive map shows current stats based on the past week, 30 days, 3 months and 6 months. It also offers historical date for 2007, 2008 and 2009. This could be good for up-to-date comparisons if you wanted to see how we were shaping up this year compared to previous years. (I think City homicides are technically down from last year, but based on the news day after day, it seems the opposite to me).
The map key offers color coded icons showing you quickly how someone was murdered (see below).
Once you click on an icon, a box pops up showing you the basic information about the crime and the victim (name, age, race, description). You can then click on the name of the victim for more detailed information. The cool thing about this (not sure if cool is the correct word when talking about homicides) is that when you click for more information, it doesn’t take you away from the map. It shows you the information on the left, and the map still appears on the right).
At the bottom, although they are not interactive, the Sun features bar graphs and pie charts with most of the same statistics shown in the map. It would be neat if they made those interactive, too, so that you could set up similar criteria and the charts actually updated with the new information. But, I like that they provided an easy way to break down all of the information, as the map can be a bit overwhelming (not to mention extremely depressing).
I was wondering how often the map was updated, and it appears to be almost live. As I searched through today, a murder from yesterday was already logged in with information (minus the victim’s name since it has not been released by the police, yet).
Although, this map is completely disconcerting, I think it’s a useful and informative way to use interactive technology to share information with the Sun’s readers. I hope, though, that it tries to use the technology for some more fun items in the future. I would love to know if my neighbors are watching Twilight. I’d show up with some popcorn and beer for the viewing!
P.S. Unrelated to crime maps, I am now obsessed with this Flickr as a Paintbrush link I found in our reading assignment. I wonder what the color of Baltimore is … I wish I was smart enough to know how to do it myself.