The All-Island Research Observatory (AIRO) has just launched a new Crime Mapping toolkit on its website. This is the first time that recorded crime incidents and offences have been made readily available in an interactive and easy to use mapping interface in Ireland. The data on the mapping toolkit has been sourced through the CSO and An Garda Síochána and originally comes from the PULSE system. It is hoped that the AIRO project will receive further updates once new data has been released by the CSO.

What data is available?

The toolkit has two main sets of data available to users – a very detailed set of crime categories at the Garda Division level and then a trimmed down set available at the much more detailed Garda Station spatial scale. The crime categories are based on the Irish Crime Classification System (ICCS). The CSO have also released a publication on Interpreting Crime Statistics, this is worth reading and outlines the many challenges involved in the proper interpretation of crime statistics.

At the Garda Division level (28 across the country with 6 in Dublin) the information available is very detailed with 57 crime categories classified under 14 themes such as Homicide, Sexual Offences, Kidnapping, Controlled Drug Offences, Robbery, Burglary or Public Order Offences. Each theme is then further sub-divided into more detailed categories. For instance, Public Order Offences contain six crime categories – Disorderly conduct, Trespass offences, Liquor licensing offences, Prostitution offences, Regulated betting/money, collection trading offences and Social code offences (n.e.c). Although the data available here is very detailed and relates to quite specific crime categories it is only available at a broad spatial scale, counties Cavan and Monaghan for instance comprise a single Garda Division. This data is available from 2004 on a quarterly basis.

The second set of data on the tool is available at a much more detailed spatial scale with information available for 704 Garda stations across the country. For instance, within county Clare data is available for 24 different Garda stations.  Due to the sensitive nature of crime data and potential confidentiality issues when mapping at such a micro spatial scale the level of detail available is far more generalised. Following strict data protection protocols the CSO have only been able to make station level data available for 10 different aggregated categories – Attempts/Threats to Murder, Assaults, and Harassments; Dangerous or Negligent Acts; Robbery, Extortion and Hijacking Offences; Burglary and Related Offences; Theft and Related Offences; Fraud, Deception and Related Offences; Controlled Drug Offences; Weapons and Explosives Offences; Damage to Property and to the Environment; Public Order and other Social Code Offences. Crime data on particularly sensitive offences such as Homicide, Sexual Offences and Kidnapping have been excluded at the station level in order to protect individual rights to privacy. This data is available from 2004 on an annual basis.

To gain access to the Crime Mapping toolkit users must initially be registered on the AIRO website (click here to register). Once registered, users can get access to the toolkit under Crime in the Mapping Modules section of the site.

The mapping Interface will initially open at the Garda Division level, crime categories can be changed by clicking on the Select Crime Data tab. To load the Garda Office level data users are required to click the Change Geography tab and select Station. This will load all Garda Stations and associated data. Users can also zoom to specific stations in areas of interest by using the Zoom to District or Division.

This is the first attempt at making Irish crime data available in a mapped format. Hopefully it will lead to further enhancements and more detailed data becoming available further down the line.

There are a number of really interesting initiative going on in other countries – it’s worth checking out the following links to see what is available elsewhere:

Building Safer Communities (USA): This portal is dedicated to helping law enforcement agencies provide the public with valuable information about crime activity by neighbourhood. The aim of the site is to assist police departments in reducing crime through a better informed citizenry.

Police.UK (UK): This website provides helpful information about crime and policing in local areas. You enter a postcode, town, village or street name and get access to street-level crime maps and data, as well as details of your local policing team and beat meetings.

Justin Gleeson