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Crime on the streets – and in the blogosphere

One of my all-time favorite Web sites is a crime data site out of Chicago.

One of my all-time favorite Web sites is a crime data site out of Chicago.

The site – which recently changed its name to Everyblock Chicago – uses actual crime data from police reports to map out specifically where crimes happen and plugs most of the public information about the calls onto a searchable map. Just type in your address and you can see actual incident data for your block.

It’s an incredible concept, public crime data that’s easy for the public to access.

So, I was thrilled last week to see that south metro blogger Bill Roehl had begun experimenting with the mapping of crime data made available online by Dakota County. He mapped out the home addresses of people charged with crimes in the county dating back to 2007.

Though Roehl doesn’t have plans to build something as grand as Everyblock, it’s easy to understand his motivations.

“I had been following the ‘Police Calls’ in the local paper for some time and had been reprinting them with some commentary … because I found most of them to be absolutely hysterical,” Roehl explained.

He has no plans to expand on mapping at this point, which is too bad for us. The Twin Cities is sorely lacking a crime mapping mashup.

The Strib has dabbled, the city of Minneapolis provides data, and local cities such as Eagan and Robbinsdale are mapping crime data through a state program called LOGIS.

But I’ve yet to find an easy-to-use site that maps the extensive data on regional level.

That’s not to say that there’s a shortage of crime-related blogs in our fair town. Most notably, Minneapolis Crime Watch does a nice job of reporting information from police and adding context when appropriate.

There’s also the sometimes-controversial Johnny Northside, who provides an interesting glance at crime on Minneapolis’ north side, and a blog that tracks home invasions around the state.

The key to a successful crime blog is, of course, the data and public information from police and the courts.

However, that’s not always easy for citizens to come by. Any journalist in town will gladly school you on how difficult it can be in some Minnesota cities and counties to get access to things like police reports or (gasp!) criminal histories.

I would love to see more crime blogging in the Twin Cities. The accessibility of online mapping tools merged with real police data could be a tremendous public service.

Minnesota blogosphere highlights, lowlights
• Wyn at Canis Hoopus writes up a guide for Vikings fans on Timberwolves news so far this year. Just in case local sports fans want to switch gears to another team local team with little hope of postseason activity. 

• Avidor at Twin Cities Sketchers delivers a couple of gorgeous pictures of Grand Avenue in St. Paul that were sketched over lunch.

Team Bailey solicits local amateur photographers to snap shots of our town using Flickr for a forthcoming Web site called Live MSP. 

• A blog called Minnesota Mic is launched to cover Minnesota’s slam and spoken word community. The site is already loaded with a calendar and coverage of a few local events.

Minnesota Mom is talked out of doing the South Beach Diet while pregnant by commenters on her blog.

• Dan, hyper local blogger in Wayzata, starts what could be a cool Q-and-A feature  about things in the community. However, he forgot the “A” part.

• They say blogs are all around us. Apparently they are underneath us as well. Twin Cities Sidewalks gives lots of space to something you probably don’t think too much about: sidewalks.