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The Campus Safety Law and Data

Universities and colleges are large. They have a lot of people and buildings, sometimes spanning more than one square mile. This is the equivalent (in Milwaukee terms) of an area twice the size of the entire Third Ward. Yah, it’s big.

Within that vast area, and nearby, you have thousands of people who live and work. There’s a lot of foot traffic. And there’s a lot of people of all makes and variations. And among those many people may be quite a few folks that are unfamiliar with “big city livin’” and therefore unaccustomed to the elements of crime that may be attempting to prey upon them. Add to that a healthy dose of personal exploration with a variety of substances, and you’ve got the equivalent of several atomic reactor’s worth of combustible energy. So sometimes it’s easy to forget why large universities have public safety departments, and why they are so important.

Along that line, I recently found out that there is a federal law that requires universities to publish a public fire and safety report annually. This law is interpreted by schools in different ways, but needless to say it does report crime data nonetheless. However, there is no standard on reporting data, so the data in its current format is useless to anyone who might want to evaluate trends on campus crimes. Or someone who might want to use it as a tool to identify trends and prevent crimes.

So why not look at campus public safety as a neighborhood initiative? For example, UWM reports its crime data to Milwaukee’s COMPASS tool, found here. For those of us that live near a university, we are very much affected by how the campus public safety teams are operating. Might be time to bring them into the data discussion.

UPDATE (2/20/2013): I found a resource that allows pulling of the reports and data in CSV format here.



Yelp plus public health data equals safer restaurants

I saw this post come across the wire, and thought it was too good not to share! Imagine: Yelp and the City of Milwaukee combining forces to improve government efficiency and public service through a public-private partnership!

From the original post:

Exciting news today — San Francisco and Yelp jointly announced that in collaboration with NYC, they’ve developed the Local Inspector Value-entry Specification (LIVES): an open data standard which allows municipalities to publish restaurant inspection information to Yelp (or any other site or app that publishes restaurant listings). More info here.

We are excited to work with both San Francisco and Yelp to help deploy the standard across the country. Visit to find out more and make the commitment to implement this in your city or county.



Info site & pledge for city officials:

One page PDF flyer:

Blog post:

Live Q&A session registration:

Hashtag: #foodinspection

Sample Tweets:

Aloha Municipal CIOs! An open data example from our friends in Hawaii.

Recently, I saw a post come across the Code for America Google Group that had some great statements on the benefits and risks inherent in opening government data. A very thoughtful approach, I thought it worth sharing.

The letter clearly states the benefits to the great State of Hawaii:

Open data builds trust among citizens by making government more transparent with the sharing of information. Open
data also encourages innovation with developers as they create applications from the information available to address specific needs of the community, whether its constituents tracking the spending of candidates or parents looking for the nearest playground or park for their keiki or anything in between. Most importantly, open data encourages citizen participation and engagement with their government.

And, in the most polite language, Mr. Bhagowalia (Hawaii’s state Chief Information Officer) seems to show real enthusiasm for his state’s open data practices:

Since becoming the State’s first full-time CIO, my staff and I have developed and openly published a comprehensive Business and Information Technology/Information Resource Management (IT/IRM) Transformation Plan that provides the roadmap for modernizing the State’s technology infrastructure and streamlining its business processes. One of the top 10 initiatives outlined in the Transformation Plan is Open Government. H.B. 632 aligns to this initiative, and thus we strongly support the intent of the bill.

The Office of Information Management and Technology (OIMT) clearly supports making government more open and transparent. The State provides a wealth of information and data that we are making more accessible and interactive through our open data portal at, which has been federated with groundbreaking federal open data site The open data portal is one example of how the State is proactively aggregating disparate data and information to make it more accessible and user-friendly, eliminating the need for visitors to have to “hunt and peck” to find what they are looking for.

So while this transcript is pretty exciting, in that a state municipal official not only has the policy backing to open data, but the tool to do it. Hawaii chose Socrata, a common open data platform used by many cities.

But as the transcript goes on, the challenges of opening data are discussed. Mr. Bhagowalia brings up interesting points that can help fuel open data discussion in our own back yard. Such as:

  • What is the role of the CIO with open data?
  • Who owns the data once it is opened?
  • Are there conflicts with existing laws?
  • What policies and procedures should be “on the books” to support open data practices and reduce future administrative rule-bending?

In Mr. Bhagowalia’s own well-out words, he outlines some of these challenges:

To really get open data right, we propose an approach that would seek to classify data in terms of established criteria such as technical availability, timing and frequency of updates, cost to implement, and ultimately value to the public. We would support a clear set of standards around what types of data agencies need to publish and when with certain minimum statewide guidelines, but through policies and procedures and reporting through dashboards rather than administrative rules. To that end, OIMT has already been working collaboratively with the departments and attached agencies to better survey and qualify the criteria by which they are required to categorize and disseminate their data.

Bravo, Hawaii, for going forward into the digital age. Perhaps it’s all that sunshine and ocean air that has brought about your progressive approach to civic and economic development. Either way, I would like to request, on behalf of the State of Wisconsin, some of your open data policy, your warm weather and a traditional Hawaiian luau.

The full, official transcript from the CIO: