Tompkins County District Attorney Matthew Van Houten released data earlier this week about arrests and prosecutions in Ithaca and Tompkins County on a dashboard now publicly available on the District Attorney website.
The database includes data on arrests by location of residence, felony case outcomes, repeat and first time offenders, initiation of arrests and presentencing data. It also tracks the number of people in the Tompkins County Jail, whether individuals are released before trial and has information on participation in alternatives to incarceration. The dashboard includes information on the racial distribution of each quantity measured using self-reported demographic data.
According to arrest data reported in the dashboard, about 53 percent of arrestees in Tompkins County in 2023 so far self-identified as white, 24 percent self-identified as Black, five percent self-identified as Hispanic, one percent self-identified as Asian or Pacific Islander and 18 percent were unknown or self-identified as something not listed. These quantities differ significantly from County population data in the 2020 census.
The dashboard also has a glossary, which defines important terms used in the data presentation such as “recidivism,” “criminal contempt” and “violation” in accessible and precise language.
Van Houten, in an interview with WHCU Radio, emphasized the importance of presenting this data in an accessible way for the community.
“With every piece of data, I’m putting out the context — explanations and context of what the terms mean because I think it’s really important for the community to understand how the justice system works, understand who has what roles and just have that level of transparency that also includes an understanding of what’s happening,” Van Houten said.
The Community Justice Center, a joint initiative between the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County, is gathering community input to compile a second large-scale dynamic public safety dashboard with data from Tompkins County Sheriff Derek Osborne’s office.
Several publicly available responses to a survey released to the Ithaca community on OpenGov called on CJC to compile data addressing the demographic composition of arrests in Tompkins County and use geographic information system technology to visualize different datasets of crime data by location. Osborne said in an interview with WHCU Radio that he was willing to publish into a public dashboard all data that the sheriff’s office had access to, including arrest, demographic and use of force data. He also said that after gathering new data and resolving technical problems, a dataset would be made available to the public.
The Ithaca Police Department published a community dashboard in June 2022, which includes data on police calls, call type, call volume and the average number of officers working per shift. This data can be sorted by location and year, but, unlike the proposed CJC dashboard, it does not include GIS mapping software, which would allow Ithacans to visualize layers of geographic public safety data, or data from Tompkins County outside of Ithaca.
Public safety dashboards address one of the 17 recommendations outlined in the March 2021 Reimagining Public Safety resolution passed unanimously by the Ithaca Common Council, which proposed the creation of a “real-time public safety community dashboard” by a county-city joint initiative. This objective was also included in the Reimagining Public Safety report passed by Common Council on April 5, 2023.
While most of the data in the proposed dashboard is already publicly available, CJC hopes to make it easier to locate information about both law enforcement and criminal justice that was previously scattered among multiple department websites.
“[The proposed dynamic CJC dashboard] will be a one-stop shop for people to learn about public safety resources in Tompkins County,” said Monalita Smiley, CJC project director in a Nov. 3 press release. “During the initial Reimagining Public Safety planning process, it was determined that the dashboard would offer the public information about how law enforcement time is being spent, community trends over time and more related to calls for service in any specific area.”