Montreal police to release more crime data

Montreal police will start publishing detailed crime data, to be released via the city's open data portal — part of the "smart city" initiative to be more transparent.

First dataset of breaking-and-entering cases in 2015 published today

Montreal police Chief Insp. Johanne Paquin, right, explains the police force's open data initiative, as the vice-chairman of Montreal's executive committee, Harout Chitilian, and municipal councillor Anie Samson look on. (CBC)

Montreal police will start publishing detailed crime data for citizens and researchers to use as they please.

The crime data, which will be released via Montreal's open data portal, is part of an initiative to be more transparent.

The police released its first dataset on Wednesday, publishing details of the 10,860 breaking-and-entering offences in 2015 and the first three months of 2016.

This summer, it will release data on car thefts, armed robberies, traffic accidents and fatal offences, the police said.

The data will only cover the territory of the City of Montreal. Demerged municipalities on the island, including Westmount and the West Island suburbs, are not included.

"This is about transparency in the city administration and innovation," said Harout Chitilian, vice-chairman of the Montreal's executive committee and head of the Smart City initiative.

The city will also publish a tool that allows residents to explore the data on a map without the need for technical skills.

To avoid personally identifying victims of crimes or their homes, the locations of each crime will be moved to the closest intersection.

Data on sexual assault will likely not be released to prevent the possibility of identifying victims, said Chief Insp. Johanne Paquin of the Montreal police.

What the data shows

There were 10,860 break-ins in the City of Montreal from Jan. 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016.

Most were clustered in downtown Ville-Marie, the Plateau–Mont-Royal, Rosemont—La-Petite-Patrie and Mercier—Hochelaga-Maisonneuve boroughs.

The intersections indicating the vicinity in which most break-ins took place were:

  • Édouard-Montpetit Boulevard and McKenna Street, by the Université de Montréal.
  • De Gaspé Street on Nuns' Island.

Each of those locations reported 25 break-ins over 15 months.

Explore where most break-ins happened in this interactive map. The darker the dot, the greater the number of break-ins that happened near that intersection.

According to the data, most break-ins happen in the daytime and in the evening.

What is open data?

Open data refers to electronic datasets that governments and agencies publish freely and without restriction.

To be considered open, datasets must have the following traits:

  • They must be in a machine-readable format that is ready for analysis. Examples: Microsoft Excel, CSV files, XML files.
  • They must have a licence that allows free and unfettered use, even for commercial purposes.
  • They must be free of charge.

Governments around the world have been releasing open data as a way to increase transparency, encourage citizen participation in public affairs and spur economic activity.

In Canada, the federal government, several provinces and municipalities have had open data portals for years. The Vancouver police department has been releasing detailed crime data going back to 2003.

Chitilian said that in other cities that publish crime data, insurance rates went down as the true incidence and location of crimes became known. 

Open data could also spur entrepreneurs and civic-minded citizens to create mobile applications or websites that present the information in a useful way.

For example, Montreal publishes the conditions of its skating rinks as a live data feed. With that data, local programmer Mudar Noufal created, which shows which rinks are open.