Friday, September 12, 2014

Edmonton's (by)Lawbreakers

Before I get to the fun stats, bear with me while I rant for a bit.

The Edmonton Police Service offers a handy-dandy little tool known as the Neighborhood Crime Map, that shows where crimes take place across the city, and gives some insight into past crime behavior. I was all set to do an analysis of the data, and was pretty excited about what I was going to be able to show, but then more carefully read the terms and conditions which include:

While it is acceptable to pass the website link on to others in your community, you will not share the information found on the website with others other than with members of the Edmonton Police Service or other law enforcement agencies
Seeing as others have explicitly asked for permission to share the data and were turned down, and the EPS has "dealt" with others who used it without permission, I've decided not to publish any of my analysis. But shame on them. The site isn't so user-friendly that it's perfectly optimized to give the best information possible, and offering data to the public but forbidding them from discussing it doesn't really count as "open data."

* * *

That being said, the City of Edmonton publishes open data that's actually open. This includes my new favorite data set: Bylaw Infractions!

The bylaw infraction data set includes heinous crimes like "Weeds" and "Unsightly Property", but also things people are actually concerned about like "Unlicensed Businesses," "Graffiti," and "Snow/Ice on Walk". So lets do everything I would have done for actual crimes, and instead look at people who let their grass grow too long.

Weather!

Weather, unsurprisingly, has a decent effect on bylaw infractions that are reported. On the one hand, it's not at all surprising that people report weeds in the summer, and snow on sidewalks in the winter:


On the other hand, a similar graph for infractions for unlicensed businesses makes, as far as I know, no sense. For some reason, every January or February a lot of people get fined for unlicensed businesses. Most likely kids selling off their Christmas presents, I reckon:


At least the new year stings seem to be getting less intense over the years... yay?

Finally, we also have graffiti and unsightly property, which look something like this:


Apparently properties are more unsightly during the summer - who knew? More reasonably, the complaints probably are easier to make when there isn't snow covering a poorly-kept lawn (or whatever "unsightly" means...). As for graffiti, there's a fairly consistent double-peak pattern every year, where graffiti artists seem to take a bit of a break around September. Maybe it's something to do with them hooligans getting busy going back to school? Who knows...

Neighborhood!

Graffiti



Looks an awful lot like graffiti is concentrated downtown and in Strathcona. I'd comment on how that may or may not be associated with actual crimes, but I'm not allowed to by the EPS Terms and Conditions. Instead... it seems correlated with tall buildings...?

Snow/Ice on Walk



Unlike graffiti, snow and ice left on sidewalks seems to be a bit more spread out around the city. Apparently the southern suburbs are either better at shoveling, or better at hiding ice, than their northern neighbors.

Unlicensed Businesses




If you want to run a business but don't have a license, I wouldn't go downtown or to West Edmonton Mall. That's just what they'll be expecting.

Unsightly Property




Mirror, mirror, on the wall, where's the unsightliest property of them all? Well, the most violations happen in Alberta Avenue, and in general just north of downtown. Keep looking sharp, suburbs!

Weeds



Not super surprisingly, the neighborhoods with high weed violations tend to correlate quite well with unsightly properties. It would really suck to get a double-whammy for both at once, wouldn't it? At least some of the oh-so-pretty suburbs (like Windermere and Summerside) are getting caught on weeds too!

Nosy Neighbors

Take a look at this:


When it comes to who's actually reporting these bylaw infractions, it's almost a perfectly even split between bylaw officers and everyday citizens for "tattle-tale" infractions like not shoveling, ugly houses, and weedy gardens. On the other hand, I'm solidly impressed that the vast majority of unlicensed businesses are reported by citizens. I guess people don't like being ripped off? On the other hand, nobody much seems to mind graffiti apart from the bylaw officers...

So there ya go. Not quite the crime post I wanted, but still fun to look at nonetheless. Thank you to the City of Edmonton for having actual open data, no thank you to the EPS Crime Map, and special thanks to my friend Daniel for suggesting the bylaw infractions as an alternative!

3 comments:

Myles C said...

Great post but I want to point out that you are analyzing the reporting of bylaw infractions and not the actual amount of bylaw infractions. You made that point initially but for graffiti your language seems to making assumptions about the behaviour behind graffiti and not that of the reporting of graffiti. I believe that there is a summer and spring blitz for graffiti to clean up what has accumulated over the winter and then again in the fall to clean up before winter inhibits the cleaning process. It would be interesting if you could overlay media releases and other activity relating to those bylaws to see if there is any correlation between public education about bylaw infractions with reporting. Keep up the awesome posts and it is too bad EPS is so controlling of their stats.

Michael Ross said...

Thanks Myles! You're quite right, I could definitely have been more explicit that these are only the filed complaints. I wouldn't be surprised at all if those correlate with the city clean-up campaigns!

Mapleson said...

The January peak in Unlicensed businesses seems to be a data artifact. There are no reports of "Unknown" month of unlicensed businesses, but it seems like they were all assigned to January. As data becomes more reliable and recent the occurrences drops.