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Good News in Chicago Data

The Sun-Times picks up the well-regarded crime-tracking site Homicide Watch, plans on expanding it to Chicago; a look at city-owned vacant property (there’s a lot of it), and more

* This is great news:

The Chicago Sun-Times is partnering with Homicide Watch’s co-founders, Laura and Chris Amico, to launch a Chicago edition. The Sun Times paid the Amicos for the technology to build the Web site. The paper plans to have its crime reporter, plus several general assignment reporters, cover murders and have interns track and follow up on these cases.

Homicide Watch started in Washington, D.C. as a project to track every homicide in the city, including a picture of the victim, the name of the suspect, and any information the site’s hard-working founders could come by. It’s a lot like RedEye’s excellent homicide tracker, but with more information—and upscaling the model to Chicago will require a lot of work.

Last year Homicide Watch was on life support and launched a Kickstarter campaign to survive (I kicked in a little bit). It got a lot of attention among media nerds, but still required the force of a New York Times column to push it over the top of its modest $40,000 goal, so it’s good to see that it survived long enough to get a cash infusion for its product.

As mapping and data collection advance, it’s interesting to see the different routes people are taking. Homicide Watch tries (literally) to put a human face on each murder in the District. The Tribune’s crime site looks at trends and demographic data. The Reader’s done even more sophisticated, if static, work on demographics and crime.

* Derek Eder of Open City mapped the vacant properties the city owns (using, I think, this data set). It’s a lot, and it’s particularly concentrated in the city’s most troubled neighborhoods (Austin, Englewood, and so forth). This is just a few blocks around the Halsted Green Line stop:

* A local group wants to do for TIFs what Homicide Watch does for murders:

The TIF Illumination Project has started examining the TIF districts in the 27th Ward. They research how much revenue the TIF received and where the money went. Then volunteers will call each recipient and ask how the money was spent.

* And the CPL’s “Teacher in the Library” program is expanding to all neighborhood branches.

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