Chicago Crime Hack, day one

The Knight Lab hosted its first ever hack day on Saturday and about 15 civic-minded hackers showed up to tinker with the Chicago Tribune’s Chicago Crime API.

A group works at the Knight Lab's Chicago Crime Hack Day.

The day started with a quick round of introductions from a diverse group. Some were professional developers with day jobs building software for trading firms or IBM, while others were self-described apprentices and hobbyists.

No matter, everyone seemed excited about getting to hack on Chicago’s crime data.


A few knowledgeable folks gave five-minute lightning talks to get the day started.

  • Joe Germuska gave a quick run down of Chicago’s crime data, explaining that 26 fields of data boil down to four basic concepts: which incident occurred (defined variously by ID and case number), when it occurred (date, time), what crime occurred (assault, theft, narcotic violation, etc.), and where it occurred (ward, community area, block, latitude/longitude, etc.).

By the end of the day a few cool ideas and concepts had emerged.

Adam Pearce demos his filtering tool.

Adam Pearce built a crossfiltering tool that let’s users visualize crime by day of week, time of day, and type. Pearce had started the project before the hack day, and unveiled his site to a few oohs and ahs from the crowd.

(Side note: Pearce appears to be quite the civic hacker. Check out some of his other work.)

The rest of the folks worked on everything from adding data to fusion tables to creating spark lines for homicides.

All in all it was a nice, educational day. The Knight Lab got to meet a few more Chicago programmers and the TribApps team got a few more people using their API. And of course the guidance, brainstorming, and nourishment provided by Source was outstanding.

If you couldn’t make the hack last Saturday, catch one of the next two in Evanston and Pilsen.

About the author

Ryan Graff

Communications and Outreach Manager, 2011-2016

Journalism, revenue, whitewater, former carny. Recently loving some quality time @KelloggSchool.

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