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Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Radio Interview with Professor Hirschfield

Alex Hirschfield was recently involved in a discussion about the new crime mapping website. The discussion was broadcast live on the Andrew Edwards Drive Live Show on BBC Radio Leeds at 5.30pm on 1st February 2011 and is available here.

During the discussion it becomes clear that although crime data is an essential part of the crime analysis toolbox, we cannot understand crime just by looking at crime data - we need to understand the 'context' within which crime occurs. Is there something about land use or the population out there in the 'environment' that might explain why crime levels appear to be high or low?

This is at the heart of the GeoCrimeData project, we will analyse existing environmental data (such as road networks and land-use datasets) to add context to observed crime patterns.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011


The following table illustrates how the budget has been allocated

ItemAmount of budget allocated (%)
Staffing, estates etc.93
Dissemination (conferences) and travel7

Projected Timeline, Workplan & Overall Project Methodology

Work Packages

The project will progress according to the work carried out in the following work packages. Mark Birkin is responsible for the overall project methodology.

WP1: User geospatial awareness, needs assessment and initial data exploration

The initial stage in the project is to engage with end users to explore their awareness of geospatial data, current levels and types of use and future analytical needs. This will be carried out using an online questionnaire that will be circulated to academic institutions and practitioners (police, community safety partners etc). Concurrently, initial data exploration will take place in order to identify potential data sets that can be used in the project.  Andrew Newton and Nick Malleson are responsible for surveying users and collecting data respectively.

WP2: Data Access and the Creation of New High Resolution Data for EC and Crime Analysis

This stage will involve accessing relevant geospatial datasets and then analysing/modifying them to meet the needs identified in WP1. These tasks will require new methods to be developed in order to spatially analyse the input data sets and derive new data. Nick Malleson is largely responsible for WP2.

WP3: Case Study Pilot

WP3 will document a scientific case study using the data generated in WP2. The purpose of the case study will be to exhibit the new data sources to the community and demonstrate how they can be used to inform crime analysis. Andrew Newton is largely responsible for WP3.

WP4: Validation and Sustainability

The goal of WP4 is to evaluate the usability of the new datasets through interviewing stakeholders (identified in WP1). This is work will be carried out by Nick Malleson and Andrew Newton.

Work Package Timeline

Gantt chart depicting timescales of each work package

Project Team Relationships and End User Engagement

Mark Birkin

Mark Birkin is Professor of Spatial Analysis and Policy in the School of Geography at the University of Leeds.  He has wide-ranging leadership experience ranging from managing individual projects to institutional responsibilities. From 2001 until 2005 Mark was Director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Informatics, and has also spent four years as leader of the Centre for Spatial Analysis and Policy. He is currently Director of External Relations in the School of Geography. Mark is the joint PI with Professor Mike Batty (UCL) of the GENeSIS node of ESRC‚’s National Centre for Digital Social Research, and is also director of the JISC project‚ Nationel e-Infrastructure for Social Simulation.  He is editor of the journal Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy, a member of the editorial board of Transactions in GIS, and a member of the JISC Geospatial Working Group. Mark is responsible for the overall management of the project; overseeing that the project-wide workplan is maintained.

Nick Malleson

Dr Nick Malleson (BSc Computer Science, MSc Geo-Informatics, PhD Geography) is a research fellow in the School of Geography at the University of Leeds and a member of the Centre for Spatial Analysis and Policy (CSAP). Dr Malleson’s research is interdisciplinary and centres around the development and application of spatio-temporal computational models in the social sciences. His recently completed doctoral research implemented a complex micro-level model which used geospatial data and artificial intelligence to predict and explore occurrences of residential burglary in real cities. Nick’s role will centre around data capture, data analysis and the production of software tools.

Alex Hirschfield

Alex Hirschfield is Professor of criminology and Director of the University of Huddersfield's Applied Criminology Centre. He has over 30 years' experience in research and consultancy and has led large scale national evaluations for the Home Office (burglary reduction), Neighbourhood Renewal Unit (crime and regeneration) and Youth Justice Board (Preventing Violent Extremism). As a former geographer (BA and PhD from Leeds) who became a criminologist, Alex is in an ideal position to see the connections between both disciplines. Over the years he has developed a number of conceptual and analytical frameworks that identify both the end users of geospatial data sets for crime analysis and the potential uses of such data. He was one of the first to apply crime hotspot techniques to British police data in the early 1990s in an ESRC funded project and went on to develop a system for producing social, land use and demographic profiles for high crime areas. Alex is well-known in the Environmental Criminology academic community and as a member of the AGI’s Crime and Disorder Special Interest Group and a former Senior Home Office Adviser to Government Office Northwest, has strong connections with practitioners and end users. His role in the JISC Project will be to oversee the criminological aspects of the work, develop appropriate theoretical frameworks for the research and draw upon his external links to engage with the user community. To see how he gets on, just watch this space!

Andrew Newton

Dr Andrew Newton (BSc Geography, Msc GIS. PhD Environmental Criminology) has 11 years research experience in environmental criminology and expertise in working with geospatial data for research and policy evaluation projects using Geographical Information Systems. One of his key research interests is the geography of crime,  and he secured funding in this area from a number of sources including the Home Office, Alcohol Education Research Council, Department for Transport Merseyside PTE, EPSRC, ERDF (EU), Government Office North West and the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGCL, Canada). He has published widely in the field and has presented at over fifty national & twenty-five international conferences. His role will be to develop and analyse internet based survey to establish the current levels of awareness and interest exists in mapping crime and using geo-spatial data, to identify the user needs of this community, and liaise closely with these organisations and stakeholders in the development of this project .

IPR (Licensing for Content, Source Code and Data)

We will use a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (3.0) license for the blog.

All source code will be released under the GPLv3 license.

The data licence(s) chosen depend on the original input data used. Data that can be released publicly (also using the Creative Commons license above) will include Open Street Map road networks and textual OS MasterMap road network or building data (i.e. a list of object identifiers and new attribute data for each object).

Spatial data that has been derived from MasterMap will be published through the Digimap ShareGeo repository; making it available only to those who have the appropriate license.

Risk Analysis and Success Plan

Risk analysis

Technical and data availability.
These risks are limited as the data required for the project are already available and the analysis methods (such as road integration techniques and spatial building analysis) have been used successfully in other settings. In the event that technical difficulties do arise, help can be sought in the geospatial community which is extremely active and supportive.

Although the research team is divided across two institutions, both parties have considerable collaboration experience and are geographically close. The project team also have a wide variety of experience in developing geospatial software as well as highly relevant domain-specific expertise in environmental criminology. Staff hours have been delegated specifically to project management and organisation.

Legal / Copyright
Some data will have strict copyright and access restrictions. Care will be taken before releasing derived data to repositories or generating outputs using the data (e.g. maps). The team in Huddersfield have long experience dealing with sensitive police data and are therefore able to mitigate these risks.

Security and data protection
Parts of the project could potentially utilise sensitive crime data. Best practice guidelines will be followed when handling sensitive data and producing visual outputs.

All staff are in place. If replacement staff are required, full documenting of the project using code repositories and research logs will simplify the recruitment process.

Meeting the needs of users
Both project partners have longstanding experience working with domain experts. To limit the risk of not meeting user needs, requirement analysis will begin early in the project and stakeholders will be kept up to date with developments throughout the project. A core group of interested users will also be established early on.

Wider Benefits to Sector & Achievements for Host Institution

Benefits to the institution(s)

As all project outputs are to be released publicly (or as far as possible given data restrictions) the partner institutions will share the benefits of the project freely with other institutions and the community as a whole. However, the institutions also recognise that there will be direct positive benefits in terms of publicity and academic/professional synergy. Also, the individual staff members will benefit from the professional networks that they can establish at conferences whilst disseminating the research as well as skills gained through events offered by JISC.

Benefits to the wider community of environmental criminologists / crime-reduction professionals

Interest in understanding crime patterns has grown considerably in recent years and the number of people actually mapping and analysing crime data has extended way beyond the police to include central government, local authorities, regeneration partnerships, consultants and the general public. Seeing crime patterns upon a map has also triggered a number of questions about what is causing those patterns, why they are in particular areas and why they happen at certain times of day. These questions cannot be answered just by looking at crime data. To begin to answer them we need data about what is going on in those areas to shape the patterns that we see. This involves looking at the types of housing, street layouts, the social make-up of different neighbourhoods, accessibility and transport routes, open space, the juxtaposition of different land uses and a whole host of other factors that place crime patterns into their broader context. Although we have data on crime, there is no easily accessible data set that enables us to map all or even most of these other factors. The data that does exist is only available through specialised services such as Digimap. Additionally, one of the factors preventing wide scale use of the data is the technical expertise required to analyse it and to derive useful insights from it. This project will seek to harness and exploit under-used geospatial datasets  to enable both the academic and end user communities to better understand what underpins crime patterns and how these can be explained  and for targeting policy interventions and resources for  crime reduction.

Aims, Objectives and Final Output(s) of the project

Overall aim

This research will make use of existing geospatial data sets and perform analyses to create new, high-resolution data that will raise awareness of the potential of this information and enable complex analytical procedures to be carried out by a wide range of crime analysts and social science researchers in related fields.


This is a very exciting and highly innovative project that will raise the awareness of both academics and practitioners to the vast potential that geospatial data can offer to explain crime patterns. Through this project we will:
  • Find out how much those interested in mapping crime are aware of what geospatial data is already out there and what they can do with it
  • Identify and demonstrate new ways of using geospatial data for crime analysis that might benefit researchers and practitioners
  • Apply some of this thinking to a case study to show how geospatial data can improve our understanding of the timing and geography of domestic burglary
  • Share our knowledge and any new datasets created in the project with the wider academic and end-user community
Final Outputs

This project will create new geo-spatial datasets that will be of direct relevance to crime analysts, the police and those involved in community safety. These data will be generated from existing publically available data but will have been attributed with additional “contextual” information. This will deliver enhanced information to those currently using such data and seek to raise awareness of the usefulness of this geo-spatial crime data to those users who currently do not . A case study of burglary will be used to demonstrate how the data can be used to enhance analyses.