This headline in the Washington Post initially gives hope that a local government agency is finally doing a Web application right: "Plotting Crime, Street by Street: D.C. Police Web Site Offers Detailed Views Of Criminal Activity." A Google Maps mashup? An app built in Ajax for click and drag real-time views of crime reports? How about a Flash app that connects to the database with the data?
Fat chance. How about a forms-based interface that generates static maps with cartoonish icons representing different crimes? How about it only runs in IE for Windows, not in Firefox and generally not on Macs? That's more like it. Mashups, government style.
The Post has the breathlessly positive report on the new service:
Most police departments make crime numbers available to residents, and many have Web sites that allow people to search for the number of crimes in specific areas. But few can match the District's new site, with its searchable fields that include museums, stadiums, gas stations and check-cashing locations. The site's level of detail rivals or surpasses those of departments in Baltimore, Chicago and Los Angeles.
It might rival other cities' official sites, but there's no comparison to unofficial Google Maps-based crime databases like ChicagoCrime.org. And the Post concedes there are a few limitations to the program.
The largest area that can be queried online is a police district, and data can be searched as far back as two years. ... The system will not map an area if a search draws more than 500 crimes, meaning that it is impossible to map a month of crime in the entire 3rd Police District, because there were 607 reported crimes there in the past 30 days. Instead, clicking on that district ... will turn up a list of crimes broken down by offense.