Less Crime

UK open source crime data: accuracy and possibilities for research

I’m one of several authors led by Lisa Tompson (@Lisa_Tompson) on a new paper in Cartography and Geographic Information Science called “UK open source crime data: accuracy and possibilities for research”. The paper looks at the extent to which open crime data published on police.uk can be used for criminological research. The research was conducted using funding from the National Institute for Health Research and the paper is available free online as an open-access publication.

The abstract of the article is:

In the United Kingdom, since 2011 data regarding individual police recorded crimes have been made openly available to the public via the police.uk website. To protect the location privacy of victims these data are obfuscated using geomasking techniques to reduce their spatial accuracy. This paper examines the spatial accuracy of the police.uk data to determine at what level(s) of spatial resolution - if any - it is suitable for analysis in the context of theory testing and falsification, evaluation research, or crime analysis. Police.uk data are compared to police recorded data for one large metropolitan Police Force and spatial accuracy is quantified for four different levels of geography across five crime types. Hypotheses regarding systematic errors are tested using appropriate statistical approaches, including methods of maximum likelihood. Finally, a “best-fit” statistical model is presented to explain the error as well as to develop a model that can correct it. The implications of the findings for researchers using the police.uk data for spatial analysis are discussed.