A site about how community groups and charities can make the most of data and open data to do something useful. Focused on Birmingham, relevant everywhere.

Police Crime Data for Improving the Perceptions of Safety in Communities


Birmingham Crime MapAt a recent Central Birmingham Social Media Surgery I met Maria Hughes from Birmingham LGBT. Birmingham LGBT work to support and sustain a vibrant, diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community in Birmigham.

Maria and I were discussing how open data could be best used for the LGBT Centre on Holloway Circus near Birmingham City Centre. We looked at a couple of things they were working on but then she mentioned how  perceptions of safety of the area could potentially put people off visiting the centre, particularly at night.

So with that in mind we turned to look at the Crime stats for the area.

Every police force in England Wales and Northern Ireland release crime figures for their policing areas which are then published and are available to download on www.police.uk. 

We started by searching by area, in this instance Birmingham, and then narrowed down to specifics from there. The police.uk maps let you customise the areas you want figures for by drawing around the area on the map. For this excersize we just looked at the month of December.

Customised Police Crime map

And you can then zoom in which then separates the crimes out further, Which means it’s little more exact about where incidents took place. And you can hover your mouse over the numbers to see a breakdown on what type of crime.Download Police Crime Data

There is also more detailed analysis available with graphs and charts to show crime trends over the year and what the outcome of the reports were etc. If you click on the image above  it will take you to the detailed page for the area we’ve highlighted and the image below shows just one type graph they produce.

Types of crime

If you download the data not only do you get an overview of the numbers and types of crimes, but even more detail of where the crime took place that could provide context of the area, as we we can presume crimes “in and on a Nightclub” are more likely to be related to the Nightclub and drinking, than to residents of the area.

We also used the map to highlight other areas of the city and compare crime figures side by side. For instance highlighting an area of a similar size around New Street Station showed 92 crimes for the same period of varying types.

By looking at crime data like this Maria is now able to talk to the centre users, and next time someone may suggest that they are wary of using the centre at night she can show them actual data of what the area is really like, compare it to other similar areas, but also give a little context to the crimes which have occurred. Which hopefully goes some way to improving the perceptions of safety in that area.

Created under the Open Government License

Created under the Open Government License




Using Open Data to Evidence Funding Applications


depivation mapper

Last week while working with BOSF as I was showing the open data communities deprivation map when suddenly Emma had a light bulb moment.

They’ve been applying to different funding pots but struggling at times to evidence that they are eligible for it. They needed to show that they serve a deprived LSOA area, and they had no idea what that is.

A LSOA is a “lower layer super output area” – or a geographic area of 400 to 1200 households, with a population of 1000  to 3000.  Deprivation in these areas is measured on multiple factors, and these are combined by the Office of National Statistics to give the Multiple Indices of Deprivation.

The ONS rank areas from 1 (really deprived) to 33,000+ (least deprived) and these are then grouped into into deciles –  so a decile areas 1 would be in the worst 10% for deprivation – 10 being the to top 10% for deprivation.

They have then mapped this data on  http://opendatacommunities.org/showcase/deprivation so that you can search by postcode and see at a glance if you live/work/volunteer in an area of deprivation OR if your membership comes from areas of deprivation.

This one website has now made BOSF and Emma’s life much easier as now not only does she know what a LSOA is – she hasn’t got to worry about working out the areas and if they fall into the eligibility criteria as it’s all mapped in front of her!


Created under the Open Government License

Created under the Open Government License

Using free tools to survey community groups and then perhaps combining that with open data. An example from BOSF, part 2


BOSF website

A few weeks ago we were working with Birmingham Open Spaces Forum to look at how they were collecting data and introduced them to Google Forms. Recently we returned to see how they were getting on and what we could help them with next.
As a group they were looking to collect information on their members income, How much they’d raised and where it had come from. Since we saw them 10 of their groups have filled in their questionnaire, so we began by looking at how they could display this.

We started by creating a separate sheet in google docs so that we could calculate the totals without disturbing the data that had already been collected – or confusing any future responses. They had columns for the different places they thought groups would be collection income from. Grants, fundraising, donations, etc. To be able to turn this into graphs we had to rearranges this so the titles were in rows – with the total amounts next to it. Like this:

BOSF Questionairre Spreadsheet

BOSF Spreadsheet


Once we were there we could use Google’s built in ability to create charts to display the data. We selected the cells with the data we wanted to display  and clicked on the create chart button .

Insert Graph Google Speadsheets


This opened up a screen that allowed us to select the type of chart we wanted to use, and edit the labels and titles.

Google Spreadsheet Charts

Once created you can place your graphic on to your spreadsheet, Save it to a separate tab in your spreadsheet, or save and download the image.

BOSF opted to go with the bar chart:

— BOSF (@BhamOpenSpaces) March 6, 2015


They are going to use this graphic to prompt more of their member groups to respond to the questionnaire, because if just 10 groups could have bought over £176,000 into the city – what have they done as a collective?

Combining this with Open Data

Once we’d finished helping BOSF display their own data we turned our brains towards how they could use open data to support their work.

For me the most obvious thing to begin with was Multiple Indicies of Deprivation . If BOSF have already evidenced they have bought £176k into the city, what areas was that money being spent in. Were the responding groups serving areas of deprivation?

What if they looked at the different domains of the deprivation map, are they bringing money into, and supporting areas of the city with poor Health for instance?

depivation mapper

The other thing we considered looking at was the police crime data. What records do the police hold on crimes in and around  the parks and open space the groups serve, What does this say about the effectiveness of friends groups? Is there more crime because there are more people around to report it? Or less because there are more people that care about the area?

They’re going to have a look at some of these things once their data collection is complete.

Created under the Open Government License

Created under the Open Government License