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Journalistic Map Mashup by Think Tank

Cato Botched Paramilitary Police Raids Map The map at left comes courtesy of the Cato Institute, where Radley Balko has been looking into the increasing number of botched paramilitary-style police raids on private citizens. This presentation starkly shows how common this kind of thing has become — and, as Balko has testified before Congress, this data may only be the tip of the iceberg.

What’s striking about the project in addition to the reporting he’s done, is how ideally the map works as a display. He and his colleagues have found the right way to help tell this story.

What’s also striking is that a partisan think tank has done the work that journalists should have been doing. This is journalism, too — advocacy journalism but the real thing nonetheless. Kudos to Cato.

(Thanks to Sean Gilligan for the heads-up.)

7 Comments on “Journalistic Map Mashup by Think Tank”

  1. #1 Jon Garfunkel
    on Jul 6th, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    Interesting. Comments in Reason request comparison to statistics of non-SWAT raids, as well as to successful raids.

    The map shows 296 incidents over 22 years, with 4 in my state. Balko estimates that there are 40,000 false raids– which sounds alarming, though there the number of arrests in the U.S. is 14 million (!). So for every botched raid, there are 375 arrests. Now, it’s quite likely that certain communities are affected more than others, and that in itself should be cause for alarm. Perhaps that’s in the full report; I don’t know. Note that the full report is behind the same theoretical “paywall” that the NYT is begrudged for being behind.

    Curious what happened at the House Subcommittee hearing on June 21st when Balko spoke… the last update of the subcommittee page is from 6/14.

    I suppose that one answer could be requiring better data reporting. Remember, one of the consequences of the Rodney King beating was installing cameras in squad cars.

  2. #2 Radley Balko
    on Jul 7th, 2007 at 6:41 am

    Mr. Garfunkel,

    Your concerns are addressed in the full report. And I’m not sure what you mean by “paywall.” If you want a bound, hard copy of the report, Cato charges $10. But you can download a copy of the full report for free.

    Radley Balko

  3. #3 HearVox News
    on Jul 8th, 2007 at 6:05 am

    Botched USA Paramilitary Police Raids…

    Cato Institute has a Google map of SWAT and paramilitary police raids in USA where innocents were harmed: Botched Paramilitary Police Raids, along with their policy paper  “Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids.”

  4. #4 Jon Garfunkel
    on Jul 8th, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Mr. Balko,

    Thank you. I was unable to find the link for downloading the full report.
    The page that Dan links to goes to here:

    which suggests that the only way to get it is to order it. I am not against paying the $10, but I just suppose that, like Dan said, a journalist might be able to make better use of it.

    I am not ordinarily a subscriber to the Cato philosophy, and I am fortunate that I live in a part of Boston which does not have many unannounced drug busts– at least I think so. I have talked to Dan in the past about improving the live data feeds to enable “realtime reporting.”

    I noticed also that the much-lauded ChicagoCrime website does not include botched raids on its map; that is unfortunate as well.


  5. #5 Jon Garfunkel
    on Jul 8th, 2007 at 11:29 pm

    Ok, I found the link, but if I post it, WordPress’s bozo filter will force this post to moderation again. Basically I clicked on the name Radley Balko, and then I saw your list of reports, and from there I could access the Overkill forgive my lack of trying before.

    Now that I’ve scanned through the report, I can make a better judgment. Forgive my seemingly flippant remark about 1 in 375, but, being a relative novice to actual crime statistics, I had to check that for myself.

    On to the GoogleMap (which, btw, throws a Javascript error on IE6/XP or IE7/Vista). I read through a number of the vignettes in the report, are all very moving. The use of a Google maps mashup, I feel, trivializes the tragedies. It’s great for marketing stuff, but I just don’t feel it works here. a flash-based interactive map would better show the numbers for different levels of government.

    To make this story truly connect with readers, I’d suggest two things. One, continuing to push for a live database, and a public awareness campaign (so people know where to file).

    Two, we do need “small multiples” in order to escape the mundanity of text. I’d suggest having the ACLU ask its members to volunteer and take photos of victims of botched raids– by their front doors, perhaps.

  6. #6 Dan Gillmor
    on Jul 8th, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    I can’t find the no-cost download, either…

  7. #7 links for 2007-07-10 at
    on Jul 10th, 2007 at 3:19 pm

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