visualize | communicate | ENGAGE
Mark explains that the Unit is hoping to add greater depth of data as the data presentation on its website currently covers up to half of what is available in-house. “We are also trying to get information at a more granular level because users have told us that they want to be able to drill down into the detail,” he says.
Other benefits are:
The Research & Analysis Unit of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority offers a wide range of materials and resources that are useful to justice system practitioners, planners, researchers, students, and the general public. The Unit also serves as the state's Statistical Analysis Center (SAC). This center is affiliated with and supported by the Justice Research and Statistics Association (JRSA), a national nonprofit organisation that promotes collaboration and exchange of information among state SACs, and acts as a liaison between state agencies and the US Department of Justice.
Mark Powers is a Research Analyst in the Unit, which collects data from over 15 agencies – each providing different data sets. “In effect we maintain a clearinghouse of criminal justice and risk factor datasets collected by other state agencies,” he says. As a result the unit has to handle a vast amount of data. In the past the Unit relied on static maps and reports produced by an in-house GIS system.
However, in order to meet its responsibility as a provider of useful information, it felt it should be providing data in a way that was more informative, interesting, and easy to navigate. “We wanted something interactive and, having seen InstantAtlas, we asked Geowise for a live demonstration via a webinar,” he says.
“We felt InstantAtlas could deliver what we wanted and decided to go ahead,” says Mark. The single map analysis tool is one of the three ways that users can now access the data. Users are able to explore how Illinois counties compare to each other on any given crime or justice indicator.
Much of the information the Unit collects is at the county level and the data visualization covers a wide range of categories. Mark says users are members of the public, groups looking for funding and government users and the feedback so far has been good. One aspect of data presentation the Unit has found useful is that it picks up errors in the data before it is published. “We didn’t intend for it to be used for data checking but you can tell if data points have been transposed. There have been several occasions where we were about to publish and then we noticed something just in time,” says Mark.
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