ABC-owned stations launch basic 'safety tracking'

The eight ABC-owned stations in major markets have launched what they call a “Neighborhood Safety Tracker,” a data journalism effort to try to help viewers better understand crime and violence near their homes.

Impact pulls data — past and present — from local law enforcement agencies and breaks it down in various visual ways.

For example, in Chicago, viewers can choose between Homicide, Battery, Auto Theft, Burglary, Robbery, Sexual Assault, and Robbery – thanks to the design of the site. It’s hard to tell that the bold blue “Homicides” above the gray boxes is a drop-down menu selector.

The raw data is displayed prominently at the top of the screen, followed by a brief breakdown of how crime has changed over the past 12 months compared to the same period the year before. At least some of the points raised in this section do not appear to have sources cited.

The estimates also included, at least for now, how the pandemic appears to have affected some rates, which is an important distinction to make.

Then there’s a custom map from OpenStreetMap with color-coded regions or neighborhoods illustrating the count of each incident. Clicking on one brings up more information about the previous three years of data, followed by a rolling 12-month count plus a three-year average. Each of these data points is also listed on a rate per 100,000 people.


Like many maps like this, the darker the color, the higher the count or rate, although any region with the lowest level of data will be displayed in gray. While ABC provides a key that clearly indicates what this nuance means, the widespread use of gray on maps to denote “no data” or “no results” in the case of election data is a bit confusing.

A vertical bar chart shows trends going back four years.

There is also a horizontal bar chart that compares each market to other major metropolitan areas based on “violent crime”. In other words, this data is not broken down into the categories described above. This data is based on 2021 numbers, which are likely the latest viable data from the identified FBI source.

Overall, the effort is an effective way to help viewers visually break down a complicated and controversial topic.

Although most of the data appears simple at first glance, it will be important for ABC stations to continue to add context and explanation as needed, as there may be underlying factors in any data.

The offering doesn’t quite measure up to other notable data journalism efforts, including those in elections by most major networks, and FiveThirtyEight, which is owned by ABC News.

This site, focused on politics, science and sport, may be for sale as the network seeks to make significant cuts. The site reportedly never made a profit, and founder and top statistician Nate Silver’s contract ends later this year.

While expecting that FiveThirtyEight-level data journalism could be a pretty big ask, this initial release of the security tracker has significant room for growth — and that could very well be the plan. from ABC: start small and grow and iterate from there.

To mark the new offer, the stations share a line for two logo design with the word “Neighborhood” in a larger, all-caps font. The first “o” in the word has been replaced with a map marker with what appear to be fingerprint lines inside. The entire icon sits above the marks meant to illustrate the idea of ​​signals and data being sent. Colors may vary by market or application.

The design may have each station’s logo included on one side and notably uses Proxima, a typeface which is expected to be rolled out across the group as it prepares to transition to a updated share graphics package.

No date has been set for this launch.


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