But how do those reporters put stories in context?
The Fall River Herald News uses a simple Google map that’s populated through a Google Sheet.
During a recent Facebook Live broadcast, HNNow.com crime reporter Brian Fraga explained how the map came to be, and how it not only helps readers, but him as well.
HOW IT HELPS THE COMMUNITY: After Fraga puts addresses into a Google sheet — which he does at least once a month, and often closer to once a week — this map on HNNow.com gets updated. Each pin has a different color and each color denotes a different crime — armed robbery, drug raid, etc.
Brian Fraga: We report every day shots fired in this area, armed robbery at this store or this location, and then we move the next day to whatever’s happening next. So, I thought the crime map could be a way to document some of that stuff. And maybe provide some more context about where these are happening, when these are happening, also just a way so that they’re not just written about one day and then forgotten about. Also, maybe it can give some insights, some ideas about what it’s like to live in some of these neighborhoods, and what some of the problem areas in the city might be.
HOW IT HELPS FRAGA: When crimes are committed, Braga can use the map to notice pockets of similar crimes, or related crimes. It has helped him offer data for his stories and has even driven content.
Fraga: Not too long ago, there was a shots fired call somewhere on Morgan Street. I went into the crime map and saw that had been a few other incidents in that area, or within a block. We also have crime maps for 2014 and 2015, so I went into those and saw that same corner had had similar incidents as well. I included in my article that that’s been a problem spot for the last couple years and had some documentation to show that.
(Editor’s note: In another instance, after noticing that a number of convenience stores had been robbed, Fraga asked employees at those stores about their fears.)
WHAT’S NEXT WITH THE MAP? There are numerous layers that could be added, and Fraga insists he’s open to any additions, as long as they’re relevant.
Fraga: We’ve talked about adding a layer of drug overdoses in the city, obviously that’s been a hot topic for the better part of two years now. Maybe that could show some links between pockets of overdoses in some areas, and nearby related crimes such as robberies. That’s something we’re still trying to hash out. One possibility that comes to mind is house breaks and (breaking and entering). Police respond to a lot of the calls. That’s not something we would write about for an article in the paper unless there was a rash of them. Maybe that might be something that I might start looking at more. With that said, the map is not perfect. It doesn’t catch every single crime that happens in the city. So you could say it’s a work in progress still.