Minneapolis police have yet to release August crime data [UPDATE]

Categories: Crime, Media
Screenshot of the MinnPost crime app on its website
The purpose of MinnPost's new app, which charts crime by neighborhoods in Minneapolis, is threefold.

SEE ALSO: Mpls 2012 violent crime stats: Day after they make news, another murder is reported

It looks at crime data in "a way," according to the website, "that encourages readers to dig into the data and ask questions, enables our reporters to track down stories, and encourages public officials to make this data more transparent."

Yet there can be no digging, no sniffing, and no spotlight without the assistance of police and their data.

As of Tuesday, Minneapolis police had not uploaded an Excel spreadsheet on the city's website detailing neighborhood crime statistics for August 2013. Police did, however, release the statistics in a PDF file, a format that's not ideal for pulling data.

The omission left Alan Palazzolo, an interactive developer at MinnPost, to wonder openly on Twitter:

MinnPost will probably go ahead and update the app using the PDF, Palazzolo wrote in an email, but "it will require more work. Excel is not a data format either, but it is much better than a PDF."

Palazzolo noted that the city's "not producing Excel files any more, besides creating frustrations, is actually a step towards less transparency and open data (though I cannot speak to whether this is their intention or not)."

Minneapolis police Sgt. William Palmer, a spokesman, said he would look into the matter.

:::: UPDATE ::::

MinnPost updated their crime app Wednesday with stats from August PDF. The total number of incidents dropped 5.3 percent from the previous month. Compared to August 2012 Since this time last year, however, reported crimes are up 8.9 percent.

"Do to issues with the Excel formats we will no longer be posting them," Minneapolis police announced on their website.

Poynter has also looked into the issue, noting that it
asked Minneapolis Police Department spokesperson Sgt. William Palmer what issues are preventing police from providing the same data via spreadsheet. "I dunno," Palmer replied in an email. "There are several inquiries and I have directed them to our IT Department."
-- Email Jesse Marx at jmarx@citypages.com or follow him on Twitter at @marxjesse

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"The total number of incidents dropped 5.3 percent from the previous month. Since this time last year, however, reported crimes are up 8.9 percent." --WRONG. The 8.9% increase is vs. August 2012, NOT year-to-date.

swmnguy topcommenter

Almost certainly, the MPD is assembling the data in Excel.  They are then "distilling" or virtually printing a PDF file from the Excel file for publication.  I'm guessing someone, either an attorney or some sort of data protection expert, is advising them not to release the Excel workbook any more, to hide their formulas.

I deal with this issue all the time.  It is a little bit painful to recreate an Excel spreadsheet file from a PDF, depending on how complex the formulas in the Excel workbook were.  For the vast majority of situations, if you know your way around Excel it's not very difficult, really.  Once in a while, you run across a PDF generated from a very complicated Excel spreadsheet, and then you need the skills of an Excel kung-fu master.  I'm guessing that would not be the case with any spreadsheets coming out of MPD.


@swmnguy I'm surprised they were releasing it in Excel to begin with.

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