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Blog Code Out Violence

What happens when crime analysts harness data storytelling?

At Narrative Science, we believe that gaining understanding from data can not only lead to better business outcomes but can also lead to better social outcomes. This was the reason we launched our Data Storytelling for Good initiative this year. As the leader in data storytelling technology, we want to promote the use of data analysis and data stories for worthwhile causes in whatever ways we can.

We made a commitment to provide products, expertise, and other resources to this mission. That’s why we were excited to provide our beautiful Chicago headquarters to the University of Chicago Crime Lab to host its Code Out Violence Datathon for Crime Analysts and why I was honored to serve as a judge for the event. Over the weekend of October 25-27, we welcomed civilian crime analysts from law enforcement agencies around the country into our office for three days of collaboration, problem-solving, and learning.

What better way to show a passion for using Data Storytelling for Good than allowing a group of data storytellers to use our space to collaborate on how to solve one of our most pressing problems?

This hackathon-style event saw teams of analysts using public data to prototype data-driven solutions to gun violence. Living and working in Chicago, we are all too aware of the toll gun violence takes on the community. Therefore, we were excited to play a part in using data to find creative and innovative solutions to this difficult problem.

For eight hours a day over three days, participants learned about new products and research methods and formed teams to build prototypes. Our cafe hosted meals, multiple coffee refills, lightning talks, and presentations. Our conference rooms and huddle spaces provided a great collaborative environment for participants to learn from each other and work together to build their presentations.

Reducing violent crimes with data

My favorite part of the weekend was being a judge and watching the presentations. I loved everything that I saw. It is very inspiring when you can take people from different areas of the country and with different perspectives and put them together around a common goal.

The weekend culminated with presentations from the six teams. No two projects were the same, but all were focused on trying to use data and innovative approaches to reduce gun violence and other violent crime in our cities and towns. The effort and imagination that went into the projects was truly inspiring and it was an honor to take part in the event.

One of my favorite projects involved improving data transparency and communication across various parts of a law enforcement organization. It was a prototype of a simple form that a duty officer could fill out when seeing something suspicious. Upon doing so, a repository of data that the intelligence arm uses for investigations is updated in real-time. The goal was to ensure that all useful pieces of information are collected rather than being lost when a shift changes or people go off-duty.

One team tried to use statistical methods and data analysis to figure out the locations within a city where shootings were most likely to occur. Another tried to build a tool that would surface historical data to help local prosecutors prioritize cases to take up.

Fun exercises, but now what?

Many of the projects concluded with participants saying “I can’t wait to bring this back to my department.” To me, that’s the best result of a hackathon event. The desire to take what you learned or built and truly bring it to life in a ‘production’ setting.

There were tons of great ideas and everyone seemed energized to go back to their departments and use the things they learned to help make a positive impact on their community.

I’m happy that Narrative Science could play a part in an experience that will ultimately have many positive effects throughout the country in helping keep people safe.

About the University of Chicago Urban Labs

As part of the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, the University of Chicago Urban Labs works to address challenges across five key dimensions of urban life: crime, education, health, poverty, and energy & environment. We partner with civic and community leaders to identify, test, and help scale the programs and policies with the greatest potential to improve human lives. The Crime Lab partners with civic and community leaders to design, test, and scale promising programs and policies to reduce crime and violence.

Learn more about Data Storytelling for Good and how your nonprofit can accelerate your mission

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