L.A. Crime Mapping 101: A Q&A with Expert Gabriela Coverdale

The Los Angeles Police Department has been working with the data crunch company the Omega Group to produce neighborhood crime maps for more than two decades. Omega sales support specialist Gabriela Coverdale tells us why

Click image to open the LAPD Crime Map.

Omega produces crime maps for the Los Angeles Police Department and other government agencies. What makes Omega an expert in the field?
We have been in the industry for more than 20 years. We have always been a law enforcement and public safety agency, and we work with other agencies to make our product meet their requirements. I think they selected us because they feel that we’re able to provide the information as they want to see it.

Why don’t police departments create crime maps themselves?
I think [having a second party handle it] is a way to standardize the process, so crime maps can have the same look and feel across every agency.

How is the crime data you map acquired?
It is acquired directly from the police department. We do not get data from anybody else, so that you know exactly where the information we chart is coming from. Whatever the agencies want us to display, we display. In the case of LAPD’s crime maps, we share the information that the LAPD wants us to share. 

Omega produces two versions of each map—one for public use and one that’s used internally by the police department. What’s the difference between the two?
We are very careful about what we show the public because we need to protect people’s privacy. That’s very important to us. We do not show exact addresses, for example, on the public maps. The police department and the detectives and officers who are researching or working on a particular incident can see more detailed information. 

How do crime maps help regular citizens? 
We’ve noticed that people feel more comfortable knowing what’s happening around their surroundings. They can look up a school that their kids go to or their home address or even where they work. It’s important to the community that people have knowledge as to what’s happening.

How are the maps a tool for the city at large?
I believe they allow the LAPD and the community to have a more transparent conversation and that they empower the community to feel as though they have some control over what’s happening. Based on information we have gathered from the community, everybody really seems to like what they see and feel that it’s given them a better feel for what’s happening. That makes me feel that we are doing something good.

Currently Omega’s only clients are public agencies. Will the company ever extend its services to private groups?
Absolutely. We think that this application could be helpful for private, not just public, entities. We could share this information, say, with private corporations that need to know what’s happening in their areas or with corporations that require a little bit more law enforcement so that they’re able to coordinate security needs.