Delco vs Chesco

One of the things in the pop culture these days is an HBO show called Mare of Easttown. For those that haven’t heard of it, probably my more international audience, it’s a crime drama set in the near suburbs of Philadelphia, a placed called Delaware County that locals simply call Delco.

Last Saturday, the show got its limelight on Saturday Night Live, which spoofed the show in a trailer for a fictional show called Murdur Durdur, from the producers of Mare of Easttown as well as those of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

The SNL skit included a crime map of which I took a screenshot.

I can see my house from here. Dur.

This caught my attention because one of the characters mentioned Downingtown, which is where your author grew up until he was 16. SNL‘s map really just served as a vehicle to showcase Googling all the town names—and the Philadelphia region has a wealth of them—because the map is all over the place, pun intended.

Conshohocken is actually a real place in neighbouring Montgomery County, on the Schuylkill River (real place). Royersford is also real and also in Montgomery County. Hockessin is also real, but is in Delaware, the state, not Delaware County, which is in Pennsylvania. (Both border the Delaware River.)

The map also makes reference to Lionville, a real place near Downingtown. Your humble author worked in a restaurant in Lionville, located in Uwchlan Township. (They don’t mention that, but I can see people enjoying that name as well.)

The keen observers will also note the placement of a label for Altor, which is only about 2.5 miles from my aforementioned childhood home. Clearly some SNL writer is from or is incredibly familiar with the western suburbs of Philadelphia.

As for the map itself? Well, it’s fictional. One, there is no Jagoff Bridge. Two, it’s actually a map of Bethlehem, to the north in the Lehigh Valley. Route 30 is a real place and does run through Downingtown and Chester County. But nowhere does it cross any town or city like the one the map depicts. Instead that road is Route 378 crossing the Lehigh River. (Fun fact, Route 30 runs west and eventually through Indiana and Illinois, south of Chicago.)

In fact the funny thing is, the map spoofing the show set in Delaware County does not contain a single place in the real Delaware County. Easttown is, for fans of the show, not actually located in Delaware County. Instead, it’s in Chester County. And your author, not surprisingly perhaps, has connections there because it’s where you can find Devon and Berwyn. (My Chicago readers may recognise those names, as several streets were named for Main Line towns.) And where I attended middle- and high-school is across the street from Easttown Township. The real one.

Now I want to actually watch the show. The real one. Not the SNL one. But first I’ll need to grab a Yuengling and a Wawa hoagie.

Credit for the piece goes to probably the writers and props department of Saturday Night Live.

New York Is Still Beating London

So two weeks ago I posted about the graphics in a BBC article about how London has surpassed New York in terms of murders, due to a spate of stabbings in the British capital. Well, somehow I missed this: an article from the Economist that rebuts that point. And it does it brilliantly.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

I think everybody who works with data knows that adage. Now, I am not using it to say that the BBC—or the numerous other media outlets that ran the story—lied. Just that it is easy to change the story based on the data, how it is presented, or which subsets of the data are selected.

The Economist’s article points out that the surpassing of New York is a short term data point, a worrying short term trend, definitely, but they then look at the data. They select two timeframes and look at them side-by-side.

It's all about what data you show, choose to highlight, and then how you show it.
It’s all about what data you show, choose to highlight, and then how you show it.

And that is what I love about this piece. It shows the long-term context of New York having a far-higher medium-term history of murder (some 28 years of data is shown). When I was growing up in the 90s, murders in New York—and to be fair almost all large American cities—was just something that was a known fact. During that time, London hovered below 200 or so, compared to the 2000+ in early 90s New York.

But then they also show the short term, which does point to a steady rise in London murders. But, the data could also show a one-time dip in the murders in New York. But they also show that the total number of deaths is still higher in New York than London, despite the three months of data.

Murder is not good. But these graphics are a good example of how selecting different time series for the same data set, and then showing which parts of the data to show. The earlier BBC piece, and my revision of it, did not show the total deaths. Nor did either piece show the longer timeline of data.

Credit for the piece goes to the Economist graphics department.

More Murder in Merica

Today’s post was going to be something not this. But it is remarkable how many people die in the United States in mass shootings. It is, generally speaking, not a problem experienced in the rest of the developed world. The question is do we want gun violence to really define American exceptionalism?

Anyways, the Washington Post has a frightening piece exploring all the deaths, the guns, the killers, and the frequency of the killings.

Too many illustrations there
Too many illustrations there

Credit for the piece goes to Bonnie Berkowitz, Denise Lu, and Chris Alcantara.

Murder Rates in the US

Yesterday we looked at an article about exporting guns from one state to another. After writing the article I sat down and recalled that the copy of the Economist sitting by the sofa had a small multiple chart looking at murders in a select set of US cities. It turns out that while there was a spike, it appears that lately the murder rate has been flat.

Chicago is higher than Philly, to be fair
Chicago is higher than Philly, to be fair

It’s a solid chart that does its job well. That is probably why I neglected to mention it until I realised it fit in with the map of Illinois and talk about gun crimes yesterday. Because there is plenty of other news through data visualisation that we can talk about this week.

Credit for the piece goes to the Economist Data Team.

Exporting Guns

When I lived in Chicago, people back East would always ask if I was worried about murder and gun crime in Chicago. My reply was always, “no, not really”. Why? Because I lived in generally safe neighbourhoods. But on that topic, the second most numerous question/comment was always, why are the strict gun laws in Chicago not preventing these crimes? More often than not the question had more to do with saying gun control laws were ineffective.

But in Chicago, it seemed to me to be fairly common knowledge that most of the guns people used to commit crimes were, in fact, not purchased in Illinois. Rather, criminals imported them from neighbouring states that had far looser regulations on firearms.

Today’s post from FiveThirtyEight looks at that very topic.

They bring back more than just cheese from Wisconsin…

They bring back more than just cheese from Wisconsin…I am not the biggest fan of the maps that they use, although I understand why. Most Americans would probably not be able to name the states bordering Illinois, California, or Maryland—the two other states examined this way—and this helps ground the readers in that geographically important context. But, thankfully the designers opted for another further down in the article that explores the data set in a more nuanced approach. Surprise, surprise, it’s not that simple of an issue.

Credit for the piece goes to Rachael Dottle.

How Serious Is the Rise in Violent Crime?

On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department released figures for violent crimes in 2016. The administration talked about the rise in violent crime. And yes, such crime did rise in 2016. But, what was not raised nearly as much is that we are also living in an era of historically low crime. FiveThirtyEight broke down the crime numbers through a series of charts and put them in their historical context.

The screenshot below looks just at murder rates. And again, nobody denies that the murder rate is up. But it still below the level it was in the 2000s, 1990s, and 1980s. One has to go back to the 1960s to find murder rates so low.

Murder is up, but still historically low
Murder is up, but still historically low

The point is really just to reiterate that context matters. If we were to look at the rise over the last year, yes an increase from 4.9 to 5.3 would look bad. But, really, we are still living in a far safer country than we were for most of the latter half of the 20th century. You just need to extend the endpoints of the chart to see it.

Credit for the piece goes to Jeff Asher.

Metropolises of Murder

Quite a few things to look at this week. But I want to start with something that caught my attention last Friday. The Economist produced this graphic about the top-50 cities by the always pleasant metric of homicide. I bring it up because of the oft mentioned capital of carnage here in America: Chicago. (To which I’m briefly returning late this week.)

The capitals of crime, the metropolises of murder
The capitals of crime, the metropolises of murder

Note which city is not on that list: Chicago.

Some countries, sadly El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico, are among those expected on that list. But the United States is the only rich, industrialised nation present. Unfortunately this is not a list on which we should aspire to be.

The graphic itself does a few nice things. In particular, I like the inclusion of the small multiple national rate to the left of the cities. Because, obviously, high murder rates are not great in El Salvador, but on the plus side, they are down of late. And the same small multiples do go a long way to show that, in general, despite what the administration says, homicide rates in the United States are quite low by these standards.

My quibble with the graphic? Breaking out cities by country. Yeah, it does make a lot of sense. But look at that country listed two spots below the United States: Puerto Rico. I am not here going to get into the whole Puerto Rican statehood vs. sovereignty argument, but suffice it to say that it is a part of the United States.

Credit for the piece goes to the Economist’s graphics department.

The Trafficante Family

For the past few days I was in Las Vegas for a stag party. One of the things I got to see was the Mob Museum in old Vegas. As I am not a gambler, the other forms of entertainment garner my interest, and if you are like me, I would highly recommend the museum. I found it very informative and well designed. So over the next few days I will be showcasing some photos that I took in Vegas, but mostly at the Mob Museum.

The first is a diagram of the Trafficante family. It bears a striking resemblance to the genealogy diagrams with which I am very familiar. But since in many respects these mob families started as just that, perhaps the similarity should not be so surprising.

The Trafficante crime family
The Trafficante crime family

Credit for the piece, I assume, would go to the Justice Department.

Update: Thanks to Scott Deitche for pointing me towards the chart’s author: Ken Sanz of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Deportation of Immigrants

Donald Trump announced how he wants to deport 2–3 million undocumented immigrants that have criminal convictions or that belong to gangs. I read up on the issue at FiveThirtyEight and came across the following graphic from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The government's chart on deportations
The government’s chart on deportations

However, when I review the graphic, I found it difficult to understand the FiveThirtyEight article’s point that President Obama has lessened the focus on deportation, but those deported are those convicted of serious criminal offences. So I expanded the size of the y-axis and broke apart the stacked bar chart to show the convicted criminals vs. the non-criminal immigration violators. This graphic more clearly shows the dramatic falloff in deportations, and the emphasis on those with criminal convictions.

A general decline in deportations has also seen a focus on convicted criminals over non-criminal immigration violators
A general decline in deportations has also seen a focus on convicted criminals over non-criminal immigration violators

Credit for the original goes to the graphics department of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The other one is mine.

What Has Happened After Police Shootings

Yesterday, I left the office late and encountered a protest in front of my building organised by the Black Lives Matter movement. The protest focused on recent shooting deaths of black men by police officers in Minneapolis and Baton Rouge, but the protests clearly tapped into deeper issues regarding race, inequality, and armed police among others. But in a far more tangible sense, I am left curious what has happened to the police officers involved in these cases? I figured today would be a good day to share the New York Times work on the follow-ups. The piece looks for accountability or the lack thereof in police shootings of civilians. Additional tables look at settlements and Justice Department investigations.

What has happened afterwards

What has happened afterwards

The piece does a nice job of using tables to organise and showcase the results of the investigations. Something about the colour choices feels off; I am far more quickly drawn to the negative results as opposed to the positives. Should that be the idea? Regardless, the work shows that tables, while not the sexiest visualisation form available, have an important role to play in designing displays of information.

Credit for the piece goes to Haeyoun Park and Jasmine C. Lee.