Friday, May 23, 2008

Crowdsourcing crime statistics

A while ago I ran across a dispute concerning Sitefinder. Sitefinder provides access to a database of cell tower locations. Unfortunately, the database is incomplete, as not all providers have agreed to provide data for it. In the original post, I suggested this was a job for crowdsourcing, though I don't know whether anything of the sort actually happened.

However, someone has put into practice the general concept of crowdsourcing a parallel database when the official information is not readily available. Vasco Furtado's site,, uses pushpins on a Google map to chart crime in Brazil. Anyone can add a pushpin, or confirm (or disconfirm) a crime already reported.

Judging from the site, either they haven't hit critical mass yet or Brazil's crime rate is exceptionally low. Even if there were more data points, one would have to take it with a grain of salt, if only because some areas may happen to have more wikicrimes contributors and different areas have different rates of internet penetration. Of course, one should take any statistics, official or otherwise, with a grain of salt. At the very least, it's an interesting experiment.

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