Tracking Trinidad and Tobago murders

I’ve blogged before about the open data journalism project called Bullet Points. Now I need your collective experience/expertise to help me with the project.

Bullet Points tracks murders in Trinidad and Tobago. The murders are tracked on this Google doc.

The fatal incidents are listed chronologically and are numbered by victim (murder toll). The victims are announced on Twitter by their toll number. This system has some serious limitations.

PROBLEM
Firstly, it is geared toward tracking the murder victims but is an inadequate way of tracking the actual killings themselves. For example, when there is a double murder, the toll goes up by two but the number of incidents goes up by only one.

Secondly, killings do not always occur in the same chronological order that the victims’ bodies are discovered. Sometimes bodies of murder victims are discovered after several days. When this happens, the relevant killing must be inserted somewhere in the middle of the existing chronological list, which obviously changes the toll count of all subsequent victims. Unfortunately, because our current system relies on the toll count to identify the victim, it has now run into this serious limitation.

PROPOSED SOLUTION
I think that what I need to do is add another column that contains a unique reference number for each incident. The unique reference number can follow a standard protocol such as [DATE][INTEGER]. For example, the most recent murder, which was discovered today, would have a reference number 2014013001. I think this will deal with the problem but I am not sure it is the best solution.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you think you can help, leave a comment below to share your perspective on this problem and proposed solution.

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9 thoughts on “Tracking Trinidad and Tobago murders”

  1. Hey Gerard, Your solution should work just fine. The only thing I see as a minor issue is if you want to chart your resulting data on the fly or at a later time, using the incidents. Then you would need to disaggregate the reference number. The solution for that is simple, just add two columns, Incident and Incident date.

  2. Thanks. Here’s another one. Some of the murder victims are known to the police and in their circles by an alias. Right now, I’m including the alias in the same cell as the name, between quotes. What do you think of disaggregating the alias into a separate column? I hesitate to do it for aesthetic reasons, basically. I’ll end up with an ALIAS column with a tonne of blank cells right next to my NAME column.

  3. What you can do, if you like because it might mess with you workflow, is hide the two columns for name and alias but create a third column called “Individual” say, which would be visible. However, include a formula to join the invisible columns using the formula like =CONCATENATE(name cell, alias cell). This way, you will have no empty cells once you have at least a name or an alias. If this is too convoluted then leave as is.

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