Changing the signal-to-noise ratio

“Simulcast currently unavailable. Units in 7…” The air is hot and sticky on a July summer night, and the radio crackles to life once again. A person has just been shot. I type furiously trying to keep up with the tempo of the dispatcher as she reads out the ticket. A few more keystrokes and I tweet one more time.

These sounds are an all-too-common occurrence on some nights. We hear tallies like “3 killed, 20 wounded”, “1 killed, 5 wounded”, “2 stabbed”,
and more. For those in communities far from the usual centers of violence, it can be easy to simply ignore it with a “not in my backyard” attitude. It’s become something we know to skip through when reading the morning news report.

I used to ignore the crime and violence going on in Chicago. Why read about something that just involves death and pain? That’s not any encouragement I need to get through the day. Thus it got pushed back, ignored, forgotten.

Not anymore.

For far too long the problem of crime in the city has been dismissed as unsolvable, or as something we need not worry about. At the monthly press briefings the Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department,
currently Garry McCarthy, says “crime is dropping.” Yet the real issue is that crime should not be classified as a problem. Crime is a symptom.

Crime is a symptom of broken families. Crime is a symptom of struggling to get by on minimum wage. Crime is a symptom of additions, hopelessness, poverty. Crime is a symptom of the system’s failure to care for every citizen, the failure of society to give ample opportunity. Crime is a symptom of our inaction.

It’s time we change that.

In the coming weeks, I will be launching the website, a guiding light towards citizen action. It’s mission will be two-fold:

1) Give people the raw, unfiltered picture of crime in Chicago. Not just in the violent neighborhoods, but around where the user lives. Let them see and hear what is going on right now, as 911 calls come in. How is this done?

Through a virtual police scanner and crime dashboard. Often a police scanner costs hundreds of dollars, and it can be difficult for a newcomer to start. With the virtual scanner, users can listen in online, for free, and know what is going on in their neighborhood. A large set of utilities can assist users in understanding what is being said on the
scanner, such as an ID lookup tool as well as boundary mapping that corresponds to incidents talked about.

Once users are listening to the sounds of police radio, they can record incidents they hear onto a crime dashboard, and follow the incident from
the initial call and dispatch to an arrest or peaceful resolution. Part of both the dashboard and scanner is a running social feed, where users
are able to post what they hear instantly.

The objective of this side of the website is to get citizens more aware of the problem, and experience the reaction from first responders to incidents that occur. With citizens being more aware and concerned, they are prepped for action.

2) is not called what it is without reason. I aim to help make the name also true, that crime is down. At first, the name may sound satirical, but through real policy change and involved citizens an impact can be made.

How will help facilitate this change? It offers a wide variety of resources for a citizen unfamiliar with the issue to learn about the key factors which lead to the crime we see daily. From education and extracurriculars to community organizations to recidivism, there are a lot of groups that need more support in order to work towards their mission.

Now, you may be wondering why this is a priority if crime already appears to be dropping. For some, it may be dropping, but others live in communities where this is not the case. As Chicago is very dependent on its neighborhoods for success, there is a strong need to work together in solving the issue.

Given the mission of the project, I invite you to visit and check it out for yourself when it launches. There are many uses for the site given the different features available - I can’t wait to let citizens experience it firsthand and be empowered to help make “crime is down” a true and trusted statement everywhere.

Let’s restore the peace in this great city.


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