SPOOKYNAV

Need help to figure what is the safest way to navigate through the streets during Halloween night? No need to worry! spookynav is here to help and guide the way!

Background and Goals for Our Project

Over the past 7 months, we have felt further than ever from our family and neighbors during covid-19 lockdowns. We have seen our younger siblings losing out on childhood experiences like summer camp and school as safety concerns in the community rose. In creating spookynav, we wanted to consider ways to help communities connect again while socially distancing. We wanted to use data visualization to alleviate parents’ safety anxieties. We hope that our web app will allow kids to be kids again on Halloween, by combining safety data into one comprehensive map of how to stay safe.

spookynav combines safety datasets for Baltimore, Maryland, to give parents one easy to read, comprehensive, and visually clear map of locations’ safety, based on comprehensive existing datasets of sex offenders, gun convictions, and existing CCTV cameras.

Living in big cities growing up, we ourselves had many Halloween nights limited or cut short as it got too dark to be sure of safety in our neighborhoods. Spookynav allows families to plan ahead to check that their routes are safe.

How it works

spookynav is a web application using the MapBox API. Using spookynav, parents can explore a customized map of the Baltimore area. On the map, they can click on ghost icons to see statistics about sex offenders, gun convictions, and CCTV camera presence in different areas.

To build this safety map, we examined three datasets, a dataset of sex offenders (https://www.dpscs.state.md.us/onlineservs/sor/sor_listings/pdf_name.pdf), a dataset of gun convictions (https://data.baltimorecity.gov/Public-Safety/Gun-Offenders/aivj-4x23), and a dataset of CCTV cameras in the Baltimore area (https://data.baltimorecity.gov/Public-Safety/CCTV-Locations-Obsolete/hdyb-27ak). We preprocessed, cleaned, and read the data, and for the gun and CCTV data, we were able to pull latitude and longitude coordinates related to safety incidents. For the sex offender data, the locations were stored as written addresses, so we used a MapQuest key to geocode the string addresses into latitude and longitude.

With that data, we created hashmaps tracking number of sex offenders, gun offenders, and cameras up to the third decimal of latitude and longitude (about every 5 minutes walking). We created a comprehensive dataset of latitude and longitudes and their corresponding sex offender, gun offender, and CCTV counts

From there, we were able to drop pins on the map to allow users to visualize all three datasets in a one-stop shop, and assess the trick-or-treating safety of any area in Baltimore.

Technologies Utilized

  • JavaScript
  • HTML
  • CSS
  • Mapbox API
  • IntelliJ IDEA
  • BootStrap
  • Github
  • Java
  • Canva
  • ProCreate

Categories

  • Best Hack for Stronger Communities
  • Best Data Visualization Tool
  • Most Creative Data Hack

Implementation Difficulties

Previous to the hackathon, none of us had built a map web app before, and two of us had never built any sort of webapp or coded in HTML or CSS before. We entered the project pretty blind to how to make it work, but pursued the web app idea because we wanted a platform to clearly visualize the datasets. We spent a lot of time researching the Mapbox API, researching how to set up a webapp project, and considering how to incorporate the HTML and CSS files. We also struggled a lot with the data. The dataset concerning sex offenders was a PDF, which we had a very hard time translating to a readable format, and the other two datasets also required considerable pre-processing. One additionally listed offenders by address instead of latitude and longitude. This posed a serious issue in translating that dataset to points in the Mapbox API, and we ended up having to geocode the data partially manually. Furthermore, we attempted to use Bootstrap with our CSS code, but found that bootstrap formatting conflicted with the Mapbox API, and the embedded map disappeared if we tried to re-arrange the placement. So, we ended up coding the CSS formatting by hand.

Concerns/Questions

We spent a lot of time considering what was ethical to include in our safety ratings. We elected not to include the addresses of sex offenders or gun offenders, and generalize it to areas on the map. Although this information is already available online, we didn’t want our app to be used for any purpose other than children’s safety, and so we felt conflicted about including people’s personal information in the platform. We also considered using crime rates as a factor in the map, but crime rates can be far more reflective of the judicial system’s prejudice against minorities than actual crime. Since crime rates can historically be more indicative of areas with large populations of marginalized communities being targeted by law enforcement, we chose to try to rely only on datasets which were directly related to safety of an area. For example, we believed that parents would feel more at ease knowing they were not trick or treating at homes of sex offenders.

Accomplishments and What We Learned

We are so proud to have output a product using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, which were new languages for us. We learned so much about searching out solutions, and finding documentation for new ideas and new formats. We're also very proud of how readable our final visualization is, and how we turned thousands of pages of datasets into safety information for communities. Last, we're proud to have done this all virtually. We all hadn't hacked before this year, and doing our first hackathons virtually posed so many challenges. With tech issues, we spent the first few hours of the hack troubleshooting, frustrated, and had to pick a direction and run with it. We're so proud that we came out with this finished product in just 24 hours, and that we supported each other throughout the day!

Next steps

We thought a good next step for the platform would be integrating a method for users to submit covid-19 safety of certain streets, and incorporating coronavirus safety into our safety algorithm and safety ratings on the platform. This would involve setting up a user submission system, and a system for storing user data and updating existing safety statistics with the new covid information. This might involve data storage on a system like Firebase.

Contributors

Mira Tellegen, Aastha Senjalia, Ashley Freels, and Andrea Tongsak

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