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The Ups & Downs of Crime Mapping in the Czech Republic

Posted on 22.1.2015 by Jan Andrš

Crime mapping in the Czech Republic is still in its infancy. On the upside, the police are trying a new crime mapping system and, on the downside, are hiding information from the public on false premises.

After our two rather general articles on predictive policing and positive feedback on our special blog post about new Czech cyber security law, we’ve decided to merge those two approaches and write a little something about predictive policing prospects in the Czech Republic.

Up: The new predictive policing system in Kolín

The Czech police are currently testing their own crime mapping system. A small town west of Prague, Kolín, with its 31 thousand inhabitants is the first place in the Czech Republic to be the subject of a crime mapping system based on actual crime data. Kolín’s police officers went to Memphis, Tennessee to learn about their approach which resulted in a 30% decrease in the overall crime rate and a 15 % decrease in violent crimes. According to sources, they increased directed patrol, targeted traffic enforcement, task forces, operations, high-visibility patrol, and targeted investigations. Kolín’s police force is going to adjust its patrol routes and also employ a special undercover task force, which will patrol top priority areas during the times the most crime occurs.

Down: The police are hiding actual crime data from the public

The current upsurge of civil society in the Czech Republic has also produced an initiative focused on getting crime data on the map and available for everybody (like, for example, SpotCrime.com). On Mapakriminality.cz, anyone can access an interactive map with crime rates and the types of crimes in every precinct. The problem is that the data is not entirely valid. The police are willing to send derived maps in PDF, but those are only simplified pictures of precinct. You can hardly draw any specific conclusions from them. Although the police do have detailed crime maps, they are not willing to share them, supposedly due to copyright infringement.

Authorities claim that the policemen who drew those maps did not allow the products of their work to be shared. Therefore, it is illegal to provide the data to the public without violating their rights. It’s obvious smoke and mirrors deception – copyright laws exist for authors to protect unique pieces of work. As noted by the prominent Czech data journalist, Jan Cibulka: “Are the police saying that if the precinct maps were made by another employee, the precinct boundaries would lie elsewhere?” The reason for this might be that police statistics and maps are full of inaccuracies and authorities are reluctant to share them because they would look incompetent.

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