|Police stats needed for crime prevention initiative|
|Tuesday, 15 December 2009 02:19am|
©The Nut Graph (Used by permission)
By Deborah Loh
PETALING JAYA, 14 Dec 2009: MalaysiaCrime, possibly the first local crime-mapping website, is hoping to get official crime data from the police to arm the public with information on crime patterns in their neighbourhoods.
However, the Home Ministry has yet to give its official approval to let police share data with the website developers.
Online since April 2009, MalaysiaCrime is based on a crowd-sourcing model where people can post information about crimes using a Google Maps display.
Its creator, Kegan Gan, said including police data in the crime map would enable the development of filters so that crimes can be categorised by type, location, and other ways to spot trends and identify crime-prone areas.
"Without police data, we won't have the confidence to speak about trends in a particular crime or area. The map's results will not be so useful for the public," Gan told The Nut Graph.
At the moment, the crime map is updated mainly with reports culled from newspapers, which makes for a random overview of crimes committed.
More interesting are posts contributed by people about a crime they either experienced or witnessed. For example, a user with the pseudonym AFZ shares details about having his or her car window smashed at a traffic light stop in Sungai Buloh and bag stolen.
Reducing street crime by 20% by the end of 2010 is one of the government's national key result areas (NKRAs). Street crimes reportedly make up 17% of all crimes in the overall 2008 crime index.
"The main goal of the crime map is to empower the public with information and create a sense of urgency about crime. The intention is to move policy makers to action as they have control over the factors that cause crime to happen," Gan said.
He created the website after a friend was attacked by motorcyclists in Petaling Jaya and had a finger severed in the incident.
Sharing government data
Public crime-mapping using police data is a new concept to Malaysia. But it has gained popularity and proven useful in the United Kingdom and the US in recent years, where the police and website operators have established partnerships.
Gan is hoping to replicate that kind of collaboration with the Malaysian police. Also a member of online funding platform group UnReason, Gan is using the Data.gov.my initiative, which is a proposal to develop data-sharing between government agencies and web developers.
The idea is for web developers to come up with applications using government data that can benefit the public. Most times, such data when released, are in the form of press statements or as government publications which provide little context for the public.
Besides crime data, UnReason is also working on obtaining urban planning, environmental and health data, group co-founder Fu Ching Yee told The Nut Graph.
UnReason has received help from the Multimedia Development Corporation Sdn Bhd (MDeC) to spearhead the Data.gov.my initiative with government agencies. Together with MDeC representatives, Fu was able to present the proposal for crime data sharing to Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein last month, who responded to the idea positively.
"In subsequent meetings between MDeC with other government officials like the chief secretary to the government, I hear that the response is always good. However, the concept is very new here, and many people may not understand why it is important. We need to explain to different levels of government why the sharing of data with the public is good for society," she said.
MDeC chief executive officer Datuk Badlisham Ghazali said they are waiting for the Home Ministry's official approval, expected in early 2010, to let police share data with MalaysiaCrime.
In the meantime, the ministry has asked for more details on how police data will be used and how to protect certain aspects of confidentiality and security.
"Minister Hishammuddin showed enamoured interest in sharing data with MalaysiaCrime, and the government is impressed that this initiative came from citizens. On MDeC's part, we are happy to support new creative online industries and the sharing of data which can enhance societal involvement," said Badlisham.
The MalaysiaCrime website can also be accessed on iPhones by downloading the application at http://www.apptivitylab.com/released-apps/malaysia-crime/.
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