The grid reporting didn't specifically show where the crime or police call for service actually occurred, but instead pinned the call or crime in an area encompassing several city blocks. Block reporting shows the block or intersection where a crime occurred, without identifying the exact address.
Last Friday, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay published a report pointing out that Marsy's Law did not support TPD's reasoning. Crime-tracking groups also highlighted the public safety risks of vague crime reporting.
Roughly a week after switching to grid reporting, TPD's public "calls for service" website again shows block level reporting of crimes on its map.
Marsy's Law for Florida, the group that pushed to bring the bill into law, said that the law does not support changing crime reporting in 2019, yet several law enforcement agencies across the state, including TPD, have chosen to interpret the law in their own ways.
"There are no provisions in Marsy’s Law for Florida that prevent the release of details of a case, including general information on where crimes have taken place," Marsy's Law for Florida wrote in the press release.
SpotCrime, a national crime tracking company, pointed out TPD's crime reporting change to CL, and said that the concealment of crime locations only harms public safety, such as in the case of tracking child predators and other violent criminals.
"We're happy to see TPD embracing transparency and fostering accountability and trust with the public," SpotCrime Vice President Brittany Suszan wrote in a email to CL. "TPD has rightfully determined that the poorly written Marsy's Law does not intend for blanket exemptions of police data. We hope other agencies who have applied this blanket exemption - Lake Co SO, Polk County SO, and Pasco County SO - take notes."
Davidson-Hiers said that the unintended effect is that communities get left with no way of knowing where crimes are being committed, or who may be affected.
"I drafted a letter to the [city] council I'm glad Tampa got the data back online in such a relatively short period," Drane wrote. "I would definitely like some clarity on the impetus. Was it a specific event? And still want to know why a vendor who threatens the public with restrictive terms on sharing is marked as public data. Public data should be allowed to be shared freely without restrictions."
TPD had previously told CL that there was an issue with the map that was being worked on.
TPD then confirmed that the data was changed to be presented at the grid level, as opposed to the block level. The public calls for service website reflected this change, as of last Friday afternoon, before the feed was changed back to block reporting on Tuesday.
CL sent several follow-up questions to TPD but has yet to receive a response. This post will be updated when one comes in.
In Drane's drafted letter to Tampa City Council—which he intended to send before TPD adjusted its reporting—he highlighted the dangers of concealing data from the public.
"Hiding crime data and making it harder to publish and share, harms the public by making them less informed," Drane wrote. "Additionally, there is no data that victims benefit from this approach. Because criminals can operate in the darkness, it is likely more victims are created by removing crime data transparency."