First of all, let me start by saying it is a truly great achievement of the Home Office to release crime data for 3rd party developers. We are really leading the world in this one.
Secondly, it is unrealistic to expect the release of such a huge dataset to be an entirely frictionless affair. Such a huge amount of data needs time to settle down and we have seen some improvements since the very early days of 5 months ago.
Thirdly, caveats aside, there is huge room for improvement.
Here’s what I would suggest for starters;
i) Create a forum where third party developers can communicate two ways with the API provider
ii) Create historical time-stamped access to all the different APIs of the past. At the moment there is just one which is over-written
iii) Give each Police Force access to the API so that they can check it matches what they have on crimemapper and sign it off each month. I’ve had a couple of emails (which I always welcome) from very conscientious Officers pointing out that their data on crimemapper does not match what’s on our website. But we have no way of knowing that – we only see the API and have to use it on trust, although we have noticed errors ourselves informed – or asked them to inform – the API supplier and these have been corrected.
iv) Releae the API only once a month on an announced date rather than at at random, non-communicated intervals.
v) Look at how to release the API more quickly. Today is the 24th June and we are still waiting for May 2011.
vi) Neighbourhood boundaries – I still don’t understand why these can’t be released and why they are only available to www.police.uk
vii) Try and get some monthly data from Scotland and Northern Ireland.
That’s it for now. I could go on but this would be a great start.
The main point is to anticipate and welcome evolution in the provision of crime data. But without a framework which brings people together, to openly dissent, debate and discuss, it won’t happen, much.