St. Paul, Minnesota has a problem. Over the last year or so, 80+ churches have been burglarized. The St. Paul Police Department has asked anyone with any information on the burglaries to call them and has, apparently, released some of the data regarding the thefts -- which gives us all an opportunity to help.
- Full disclosure: Dagir is run by Mercyhurst grads. I had many of them in my classes while they were here. I thought I was calling in a favor but when they heard the reason why, they were more than happy to contribute their time and expertise.
The guys at Dagir actually built two platforms for us to use. The first is a loosely structured wiki where anyone who has a few minutes to spare can help. Simple things like plotting the location of a church that HAS NOT been burglarized or reading and commenting on the one of the ongoing analytic discussions would add value to the product.
More sophisticated analysis is also possible through the second tool, an interactive geospatial analysis tool that permits the user to play with the data in a variety of interesting ways (the picture above is a screenshot of the tool). Want to search for only those burglaries that involved forced entry through a window? You can do that. Want to see how the pattern of burglaries emerge across time? You can do that, too. The Dagir team has even put up a "How-to" section on the wiki for those that really want to explore the power of this geospatial analytic tool.
The wiki platform also allows people who want to contribute to the project to upload any analysis (sophisticated or otherwise) or just plain information that might be of use to the rest of us. It really is a flexible set of tools (I was also glad to see the Dagir guys settled on Wikispaces as the wiki platform of choice. It is a very easy to learn wiki platform).
Even if you can't find the time to help analyze the data, watching the project evolve from this point should be an interesting case study in how these kinds of efforts work and how they might be improved in the future. It could also be an interesting classroom extra credit assignment for those who are interested in crime mapping or collaborative analysis.