CrimeMap.DC isn’t worth the internet it’s printed on

The Metropolitan Police Department recently completed CrimeMap.DC, a database meant to enable District residents to search MPD’s crime records. The concept is simple and laudable, but if the navigability of MPD’s main website was any indication, it was a job that MPD and the folks down at D.C.’s Office of the Chief of Technology Officer were bound to severly bungle.

And truly, the result of MPD and OCTO’s project is incredibly useless to students, residents, anyone that attempts to use it. It’s barely searchable (it’s best to your neighborhood’s PSA number–but how many people know that?), visually garbled (these are all the crimes that occurred in Georgetown in the past year–can you tell?), and of course, loads at an excruciatingly slow pace.

Basically, MPD and OCTO seem to have designed CrimeMap.DC for a District resident with the patience of a saint, not the browser. As a browser, I wish they hadn’t wasted their time. D.C.’s government has already given us CapStat (I’ve loved on it before), a cross-agency effort to monitor bureaucratic goings-on which has a mapping application of its own, this one being immaculate.

Instead of tossing the map, the crime narratives, and the search functions to the four winds so that they come to land on windows separated Kevin Bacon style, they consoldate this information onto one page. And unlike CrimeMap.DC, CapStat mapping application can display more than one type of crime at a time. Compare the two:


Above, CrimMap.DC has mapped every burglary within 1,500 feet (the largest possible search radius) of Georgetown that occurred in the past year. It’s up to you to slog through their texty crime narrative files to figure out just when each occurred, and what exactly happened.


Above, CapStat has mapped every crime that occurred within a one mile radius of the front gates in the past thirty days. The text box is the crime narrative for the possible biased crime that occurred near Harbin over Thanksgiving break. Unlike in CrimeMap.DC, you can view descriptions of the crime on the map and reset the search in the same window.

Of course, CapStat isn’t perfect. It would be nice if the city uploaded crime narratives to CapStat more often; it would be nice if the city enhanced some of its search features. And it would have been nice if the city had spent their time and resources enhancing something that is already serving its residents well than to build its meager imitation.

5 Comments on “CrimeMap.DC isn’t worth the internet it’s printed on

  1. I totally agree that MPD should be working with CapStat to build one, really, really good crime mapping tool, rather than wasting money on their own rudimentary one.

    However, I think the option that CrimeMap.DC gives you of looking at just one type of crime at a time is actually very useful. For instance, who knew that 3 of the 4 sex abuse cases in PSA 206 from the past year happened very, very close to campus? Or that most of the assualts with a dangerous weapon excluding guns happened on or around the lower part of Wisconsin Ave? Also, CrimeMap.DC does give you the option to map “Total Crime” (or even “Total Violent Crime” or “Total Property Crime”). I also like that they give you a page of crime statistics with very clear comparisons to the equivalent period from the previous year.

    For me the biggest problem with CrimeMap.DC is that in order to get information on a specific crime, you’re expected to go through the entire data set, which isn’t searchable, making it a rather excruciating process. I think CrimeMap.DC has some good features, but MPD would have been better off integrating them into CapStat, which is about 20 times more user-friendly.

  2. What they should do is make the data freely available so anyone can try their hand at making a map. If Google can take the geo-coded, time-stamped crimes and get users, great. If The Hoya can, awesome.

    I’m fairly certain Metro doesn’t do so. And I know WMATA has been reticent to do so with public transit data. (

    Open, interoperable standards are incredibly important for the government to adopt. Take a look at Sec. Leavitt’s recent OpEd:

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