Category Archives: Sources

A Collection of Crime Data

We have been mapping out the landscape for crime data in the UK and the list of sources for England and Wales we have come across is below.  We don’t pretend this is comprehensive or 100% accurate (e.g. some references are to specific time data from a couple of months ago) so if you have any additions/corrections please make them by comment to this post.

A central initiative has been announced by the Home Secretary for all Police forces to produce some crime maps by December of this year. We hope this initiative will deliver some good results.  While innovation by anyone else who has ideas about how best to present and mash crime data would be helpful in this process.

Richard Allan, Task Force Chair

Local Crime Information Delivery on Police Websites

Avon and Somerset


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Filed under Crime, Sources

Washington DC Competition and Data Catalog

The District of Columbia in the US is running an interesting competition called AppsForDemocracy along similar lines to our ShowUsABetterWay competition.

Entries are requested for innovations using data that is being offered by the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO).

The data is really well presented in a Data Catolog.  This appears to be both very comprehensive and user-friendly fulfilling the requirements we have set out here for an Access Layer.

The Terms of Use are also interesting as they simply add some extra terms specific to RSS feeds and data files onto the normal terms and conditions for using the public website.    The emphasis in both documents is on disclaimers about information quality and liability rather than on any form of copyright enforcement.

Richard Allan, Task Force Chair


Filed under exemplar, Sources

Local Government Web 2.0

NCC has published a useful article on Web 2.0 in local government.

This points to some interesting reference sites and then offers a set of guidance for local government on using Web 2.0 technologies.

The Task Force recognises that much of the most interesting data for citizens is held by local rather than central government.  We are looking at some of the policy issues around a power of information approach in local government and will share this via the blog soon.

Richard Allan, Task Force Chair


Filed under Sources

National Statistics Boundaries

The new Metropolitan Police maps are based on areas that are described in the press release as:

Crime mapping areas are based on pre-defined (‘sub ward’) areas consisting of an average of 633 households. There are 4,765 ‘sub wards in London.

These ‘sub-wards’ are in fact Super Output Areas (SOAs) which have been defined by National Statistics for applications based on neighbourhood statistics.  More precisely, the maps use the (catchily named) Lower Layer Super Output Areas, or LSOAs.

National Statistics very helpfully make boundary data for these areas freely available on their website, and will also send them to you on a CD-ROM for free if you prefer.

This is all good stuff… except that if you want to add your own data to existing sets based on these boundaries, you really need a postcode to SOA lookup table.  And this is apparently not free but can only be done if you have access to commercial packages such as the Ordnance Survey’s Code-point.

If anyone knows of a free postcode-SOA lookup file then please let us know as this would be really helpful for data-mashers.  If indeed a free version of this does not exist as yet then this is a priority dataset for us to try to make available.

Richard Allan, Task Force Chair


Filed under Sources

A Collection of Government RSS Feeds

Blogger Informationoverlord has helpfully compiled a list of RSS feeds from UK Government sources that he has put together from patient research.

For those interested in international comparisons he has carried out a similar exercise for the German government and is looking for help doing this for other countries.

Richard Allan, Task Force Chair


Filed under Sources

MapTube, Crime and Privacy

Chris Osborne posted a comment to an earlier entry drawing our attention to a MapTube project mapping crime in London. This deserves a fuller article as it demonstrates a number of interesting points.

1. MapTube itself is worth a mention. This initiative from UCL’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) is a great demonstrator of the power of map-based information. There is a mass of interesting information and tools behind MapTube with the GeoVue project of particular interest. The GMapCreator software that has been created as part of this is useful for Google Maps mashers.

2. Privacy has come up as an issue for the Power of Information agenda. We have set ourselves the task of only dealing with data that is not personal. In most cases the distinction is clear, but there are areas such as crime mapping where there is some uncertainty about whether publishing detailed information would have implications in terms of data protection law. The point to consider is the extent to which individuals, especially victims, can be identified when details of individual crime incidents are shown. This quote from the Data Protection Act 1998 tells us when data has to be regarded as personal:

“personal data” means data which relate to a living individual who can be identified—
(a) from those data, or
(b) from those data and other information which is in the possession of, or is likely to come into the possession of, the data controller,

The issue for some uses of apparently anonymous public data is in this second clause, i.e. does it relate to a real person when the data is combined with other information. The quantity of data now available online and the very power of Web 2.0 technologies makes it increasingly likely that data can be linked up to identify an individual.

The MapTube crime map links through pins to published newspaper articles which name individual crime victims. In the cases shown on the map, the victims are tragically deceased and therefore outside the specific definition of personal data, but this does provide a graphic illustration of the general phenomenon of linkage of crimes to victims that is worrying the regulators.
Richard Allan, Task Force Chair


Filed under Crime, Sources

OPSI Annual Report

The Office of Public Sector Information has today published its annual report which has a wealth of useful information for anyone interested in the Power of Information agenda:

The UK Government has today presented to Parliament OPSI’s annual report on the re-use of Public Sector Information. The report has been published as Cm 7446 copies of which can be purchased from TSO or downloaded from the OPSI website at

This annual Report marks the third anniversary of the UK’s implementation of the European Directive on the Re-use of Public Sector Information (PSI). The report coincides with the European Commission’s review of the implementation of the Directive. The UK Report will feed into the review process.

The Report highlights the key milestones and tracks the progress made by OPSI and the UK government over the past year. The European Commission has praised the UK for its commitment to PSI, much which has been achieved through OPSI’s central policy role for PSI. The UK is seen as an exemplar and leader in PSI across Europe.

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Filed under Announcements, Sources

Open Government Data

There is an Open Government Working Group in the US who have a wiki with some good links to US initiatives. This group has published a set of principles for open government data and invites discussion on these.

Richard Allan, Task Force Chair

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Government Data and the Invisible Hand

A group of academics at Princeton University in the US has published a very interesting paper called ‘Government Data and the Invisible Hand’.

This quote from the Abstract gives a sense of its strong alignment with the Power of Information thinking in the UK:

Today, government bodies consider their own websites to be a higher priority than technical infrastructures that open up their data for others to use. We argue that this understanding is a mistake. It would be preferable for government to understand providing reusable data, rather than providing websites, as the core of its online publishing responsibility.

Richard Allan, Task Force Chair


Filed under Sources

Two new APIs and a couple of chunky zip files…

A crack team of data ferrets working for the Task Force have returned from their first forays into the bowels of Government. And lo, they come bearing gigabytes of juicy data, most of which is ready to share in handy API format. Check out the Office of National Statistics Neighbourhood Statistics API for an avalanche of local data. Or the NHS Choices API, for those of you who fancy re-using much of the advice available on the NHS website. Or the 47MB of zipped XML making up the last year of official notices Governement and others are required by law to publish in the London Gazette. Or even the contents of EduBase listing the address of every school in England and Wales with details of the headteacher, age range of pupils and school status (e.g. foundation school).

What’s more, the ferrets assure me that there’s more to come…

Edit: Clarified that Edubase is only data from England and Wales


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