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GCN : August 2015
10 GCN AUGUST 2015 • GCN.COM CITY OF OAKLAND BY PATRICK MARSHALL EMERGING TECH WHEN THE OAKLAND, CALIF., Police Department asked Ahsan Baig's team for a way to publish its 911 call data, his initial idea was to build a Web-based app that residents could use to check on incidents in their neighborhoods. Police officials wanted to provide the data as a spreadsheet, said Baig, the city's division manag- er of public safety services and business applications. As it happened, however, Baig's team was in the middle of a major GIS platform upgrade. "We looked at the re- quest and said, 'You know, there's a better way of doing this. We could put together an application that would provide you with more of the informa- tion that you're looking for,'" he said. Baig turned to his primary GIS software pro- vider --- Esri --- for help in building the app, which was developed using the company's ArcGIS platform. Three months later, in June 2015, the Oakland Po- lice Department's Calls for Service app was launched. The Web-based app allows residents to view incident reports in near-real time, either as point data on the map of Oakland or in tabu- lar form. For now, the information provided is succinct and includes only the date and time of the incident, a very brief (one- to four-word) de- scription of the incident, the police beat, council district and incident number. The app does not include infor- mation on some categories of crimes --- rape, terrorist threats, suspected child abuse --- that might involve ongoing security issues or violate victims' rights. One pleasant surprise for the police was that when Baig's team built the public app, they also built internal dashboards for the officers. Not surprisingly, the internal app offers access to much more detailed data. Each area commander has a custom dashboard that focuses on data for that area and includes additional details about the incidents and real-time information such as which officers are responding, their level of experience and skill sets. The response to the in- ternal dashboards has been enthusiastic. "Our command staff was really amazed," Baig said. As a result, "we're using that internal applica- tion as a launching pad. We're going to have more layers of real-time infor- mation, including vehicle locations." While the public Calls for Service app has not been available long enough to provide a meaningful measure of its impact, Baig said the site gets a good number of hits. "So far, we have very positive feedback," Baig said. "People are liking it." He added that residents have started asking for the information to be sent via an RSS or XML feed, a feature that the city expects to add in the near future. Baig is also looking into the possibility of adding one-click way for resi- dents to provide informa- tion about incidents. "Maybe when you open up an incident, we can have a resident quick form where they can provide additional informa- tion," he said, similar to the way people can currently contribute information about potholes or broken streetlights. Oakland's approach to public and internal crime dashboards has generated inquiries from police depart- ments in other cities, includ- ing Chicago, Berkeley and several towns in Southern California. • Oakland builds real-time crime apps for residents and police The Oakland, Calif., Calls for Service app allows residents to view police incident reports in near-real time.