I once called New Orleans the queen of open crime data and the city’s latest update to its Calls for Service database proves this to be true. I peruse the Calls for Service data several times a week (I’m a nerd, but you knew that), and when I went to open the data on Friday I saw the latest update. And it’s terrific.

Before I get into the new features just compare the below screenshot of the original Calls for Service database (below left) with the database as it stands now (below right).

The original database gave us an incident’s item number, signal, a signal description, X and Y map coordinates, date/time for the incident’s creation, dispatch and closure, the incident’s disposition, slightly obfuscated address, and zip code. This is all great and formed the backbone of many a good analysis.

But the improved Calls for Service data sets allow us to do so much more. The city updated the data at the beginning of the year to provide an incident’s priority (hugely important), the arrival time (allowing more precise response time measurements), the district, and lat/long coordinates (so much easier for those of us not using Esri).

Then came Friday’s update which bumps up the open data’s value to a whole other level. Included in the newest update are the incident’s initial signal and priority, so we can start to analyze how often signals & priorities get changed. There’s also a column for ‘self-initiated’ that will help measure police proactivity levels.

Finally there’s the most useful feature: the incident’s NOPD patrol beat. This tells gives a more precise location than zip code or district but less precise than address. Doesn’t sound like a big deal but adding the beat information makes neighborhood-level analysis much, much easier.

When I analyzed crime in Lakeview last year I had to convert the X/Y coordinates to lat/long and isolate incidents within Lakeview. That wasn’t too difficult because that neighborhood is largely a north-south rectangle. But analyzing crime in the French Quarter, for example, is much more difficult because that neighborhood is oddly shaped and at an angle. With NOPD beats though we can just isolate a neighborhood’s beat and start analyzing.

It might feel minor, but the changes over the last 7 months to the Calls for Service data greatly enhance our citizenry’s ability to understand both crime and policing and that’s a big deal.