Changes to City Data Require Nimble Journalism

Published December 8, 2020

Among the premium features enjoyed by Subscribers of the McKinley Park News are McKinley Park Crime Reports: a specific, edited list based on publicly provided data, filtered for the parts of the three Chicago Police Department beats that patrol our neighborhood.

Letter from the Editor Crime Report Example screencap 20201208A crime report from the McKinley Park News displays crime information, approximate location and more.Many websites present Chicago crime report data through a variety of tools, including official portals from the City of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department. However, a recent, seemingly uncoordinated change to core city data both threw a monkey wrench in our own crime reporting and knocked offline many tools and services that display Chicago crimes by location.

Small is Beautiful

We noticed this change starting in mid-October, when some of the sources we use no longer displayed updates. A deeper dive into raw data found that mapping coordinates — used to pinpoint an approximate location for crimes — were no longer provided, with the exception of homicides. This broke both City of Chicago and third-party crime reporting services, which now can no longer display crimes by neighborhood, location or proximity.

Fortunately for the McKinley Park News, being small is an asset in this situation. Our micro-local focus has always allowed for hands-on data journalism that goes far beyond other services’ automated data dumps: We review, edit and reformat raw information so it’s easy to access and understand. Because of our size, we were able to quickly pivot and adjust our methods, restoring hundreds of McKinley Park crime report records for October and November, and staying current with daily updates.

Now, the Subscriber services of the McKinley Park News are the only place on the Internet where you can find crime report listings specifically for the McKinley Park neighborhood of Chicago. (The seemingly sole alternative is to download and wade through the raw data yourself.) We’ve kept our crime maps, with approximate locations accurate to within one block, and we will continue to stay current with listings, which are released daily one week after the crimes occur.

Support Local Journalism

The crime reports in the McKinley Park News join other editorial features like McKinley Park Building Permits and McKinley Park's Notable Arrests as exclusive to Subscribers. Subscription revenue allows for both continued publication of unique premium content and the publicly available neighborhood news reporting, event listings, website memberships, community forums and other free features we provide.

Letter from the Editor Crime Report Headlines screencap 20201208A screen capture of McKinley Park News crime reports shows some of the listed crimes in the neighborhood from November 2020.If you’d like to become a Subscriber, the costs are less than $2.50 per month ($29.95/year): Click here to sign up. The great care we take to create accurate, unique, neighborhood-level information delivers the highest value in local news. It’s not only the best way to stay informed about McKinley Park; your subscription supports local journalism that is a rapidly disappearing resource.

Looking forward, we anticipate continued resiliency in the face of changing data conditions thanks to our focus on a single neighborhood and editorial operations set up to be independent and nimble. Small is beautiful! We’re also anticipating some new premium news products based on currently segregated data sources, and we’re continuing our ongoing coverage of our neighborhood’s news, events, people, businesses and institutions.

Thank you for engaging with the McKinley Park News. Do sign up as a Subscriber if you’d care to support us and enjoy unique features like our McKinley Park neighborhood crime reports.

All the best to you and yours!

Justin Kerr
Publisher, McKinley Park News 

everything needed is right here:
Justin Kerr
Thanks! Yes, I had seen HeyJackass before. However, I couldn't find a way to break out results by neighborhood, only Chicago-wide. Or did I miss something?
Justin Kerr said :
Thanks! Yes, I had seen HeyJackass before. However, I couldn't find a way to break out results by neighborhood, only Chicago-wide. Or did I miss something?

THIS resource should help:

Website above and don't sensor statistics....tells it like it really is...GREAT tools

Justin Kerr
I use the service regularly when needing to listen in on live police and emergency broadcasts, including those that include McKinley Park (Area 1 broadcasts, I believe).

The data we pull for our crime stats comes straight from the raw data as provided by the City of Chicago. HOWEVER, we do not do this automated via API, which could impose editorial or other restrictions. This raw data is what's referred to in this Letter from the Editor as no longer including coordinate data.

I've now noticed that some third-party services are now replacing the "XX" with zeroes for crime reports in order to return their mapping capabilities (e.g. "19XX 35th Street" becomes "1900 35th Street"). Of course, this must mean that all crimes now take place on street corners. :-) One little bit of extra editorial we put on our crime report maps is placing a more specific and accurate location pin, when we have information pointing to a more specific location.

Another thing we've just done is link our Notable Arrests with available Crime Reports, which I don't think anyone else is doing. These are for some of our "premium"/subscriber features.

Thanks for sharing the info. Cheers!


"Editor’s note: All murders are homicides, but not all homicides are murders. We count homicides, whereas the CPD counts murders. A homicide, or a non-fatal shooting, regardless of type or by whom, within the city limits of Chicago counts towards our total metric, including anything on the expressways. CPD-involved, ISP-involved and justifiable homicides all count. Reckless homicides may count if the Medical Examiner rules that the cause of death was a homicide. Suicides do not count. Additional definitions can be found on the Glossary page."

Justin Kerr
As an update to this Letter from the Editor, I noticed just this morning while updating our Crime Reports that the coordinates have been returned to City of Chicago data! rolleyes No word as to why they disappeared, or why they suddenly returned, but this issue did break a bunch of official City of Chicago and Chicago Police Department tools, so it's great that it's back.

We will continue to use all available qualified data and resources to inform our data journalism, including again taking advantage of this provided coordinate data. The McKinley Park News will remain the only source that filters this data specifically for our neighborhood, as well as the only source linking related records in Crime Reports and Notable Arrests.

Log In to comment on this item.