Amethyst: The Information Hub for Cornwall Community Safety Partnership

The Amethyst team is the central coordination hub for data exchange and analysis for the Cornwall Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP) and also acts on behalf of a new formed unitary authority covering Cornwall, UK..

The Amethyst project (http://www.amethyst.gov.uk ) initially funded by the Home Office, was set up in 2001 in response to the growing demand to collect and share local data to support Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRPs) in reducing crime and the fear of crime. By sharing information, patterns of crime are more likely to be identified along with the underlying causes; leading to more informative decision making, effective targeting of resources and cohesive partnership working.

Amethyst were one of the early innovators in the area of data sharing and crime mapping in the UK. They established a relatively sophisticated solution which went live in 2002. Their work was seen as best practice and referenced in GIS and Crime Mapping (Spencer Chainey & Jerry Ratcliffe) and Crime Mapping - Improving Performance (Police Standards Unit).

Phil Davies, the Team Coordinator, has been with the project from inception and is well-known within the UK crime mapping community.

“The Amethyst reporting platform is a strong mechanism for disseminating community safety information, engaging with partners and supporting the auditing and analytical requirements for the CDRP. In developing such a system you must carefully consider your user base. In the early days a lot of thought went into providing partners with comprehensive data sharing and analysis capabilities. With the benefit of hindsight”, Davies adds, “We were too technology led and strategic managers avoided using the system and tended to come direct to the team”.

Amethyst have been long-term customers of InstantAtlas, a statistical visualization tool for geographic and temporal data, which they saw as complementary to their more sophisticated web GIS platform. As a reporting tool InstantAtlas has evolved to the point that it now offers an inexpensive yet richly functional solution, that, five years ago, would have required much greater investment.

In September 2008 GeoWise and Amethyst initiated the joint development of a new application for publishing crime statistics for Cornwall to both their partnership audience and the external users of the Amethyst web site. They wanted to create an easy-to-use yet interactive way for users to explore the latest data at a level of geography that was sufficiently granular to make it relevant and useful. The team has built up considerable experience about the types of crime they wanted to present and how best to present them. They wanted to apply this experience to delivering to delivering an interactive picture of crime across Cornwall but without significant additional cost. The InstantAtlas product offered them a way to meet these objectives.

Key Drivers

Phil Davies comments: “While there is no current explicit obligation for CDRPs to share and publish their data in this way, we wanted to demonstrate best practice by following guidance on data sharing, data dissemination and community engagement from many reports dating as far back as 2003. We wanted to create a tool that both analysts and casual data users can utilise to support them in an initial ‘scan’ of the crime landscape – (see the SARA process http://www.crimereduction.homeoffice.gov.uk/learningzone/sara.htm).”

“There are also other drivers for us as a CDRP that differentiate our objectives from some of our partner agencies. As a crime reduction partnership for Cornwall we wanted to create an interactive picture specifically for this area that compares any locality with all others”.

“We also felt like our Strategic Assessment report, which presents the evidence of patterns and trends in a wide range of maps and charts, suffers from the limitations of being a static document. It doesn’t allow people to explore the data underpinning this report on their terms. We were keen to create an interactive report that presents much of this evidence in the form of graphics to make it easier to interpret and explore. Our users can then dig into the data in their areas of interest. We have been able to create an application on one interactive page that delivers many of the static graphics in the Assessment. We have also taken text directly from our report and embedded it in a context-sensitive manner into the application to help people interpret what they are looking at. We hope this will lead to greater empowerment through more effective engagement – an area which CDRPs are being strongly encouraged to address right now.”

“In the next phase we intend to add other community safety datasets such as anti-social behaviour cases and data on multiple deprivation to put our recorded crime data from Devon & Cornwall Police into a broader context. We also have plans to link the new unitary authority web site with the CDRP site allowing users to explore our outputs very easily.”

“We strongly support Amethyst and see it as a national exemplar analytical resource. It was showcased in the Home Office national standard guide: ‘Delivering Safer Communities: A guide to effective partnership working’. Amethyst is a key resource for identifying priorities for targeted delivery and provide an important role in monitoring and reporting performance; not only for the community safety partnership, but also in support of the LAA.”

Lorain Alan MBE. Government Office SW Head of Safer Communities for Devon and Cornwall peninsula.

Conclusions

GeoWise has worked collaboratively with the Amethyst team to develop their new Cornwall Crime Explorer application. The data behind this application is simply managed in Microsoft Excel, a tool the Amethyst team knew well, and the atlas is simply re-published every quarter as new statistics become available. The application went live in January 2009 and is available from the Crime section of the Amethyst web site (http://www.amethyst.gov.uk/crime.htm).

Government Solutions Director at GeoWise comments: “It has been an iterative process. We’ve tested lots of options for presenting this data. I am really pleased with the result – it demonstrates what can be achieved with limited budget using data visualization tools that have been designed to communicating data of this kind. It has also been of great benefit to us in terms of feeding best practice into public crime mapping applications for a number of UK police forces we have been working with in recent months.”

“Phil and his team recognized the innovative approach that InstantAtlas brings to data communication. It demonstrates an evolution of this type of application from traditional ‘crime mapping’ to effective ‘crime reporting’ using a mix of best practice data visualization principles that are widely applied in areas like business intelligence dashboards.”

GeoWise have recently published an online resource of international examples of crime mapping and reporting – this is available at:

www.instantatlas.com/crime

Other CDRP and local partnership examples include: - Safer Bristol http://www.bristolpartnership.org/resources/data/son/crime-data Worcestershire Crime Mapping http://tinyurl.com/dmpdsf Norfolk Crime Reporting District profile for Norwich is at: http://www.norfolkdata.net

Crime and Public Safety Showcase

http://www.amethyst.gov.uk/crime.htm

Amethyst CDRP Case Study in PDF Format


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Case Study Keywords - fire mapping, crime mapping, crimemapping, crimemapper, community safety, crime rate statistics, crime trends, crime analysis, crime statistics, crime map, crime detection rates, crime solving rates, crime mapping and analysis, crime mapping software