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Dallas deletes some information from its public portal, and might remove more

Dallas Police Department HQ signed framed by trees.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA News
City of Dallas officials say it is important to remove sensitive data from the Dallas Open Data Portal to help ensure the safety and security of city residents and employees.

Dallas city officials have removed critical police report information from an online database and more redactions might be on the way.

Dallas’ Open Data Portal allows the public to access information from a variety of local data such as the financial budget and expenditures.

But data collected from the Dallas Police Department, such as crime reports and 9-1-1 calls, has many concerned about privacy.

The city’s Office of Data Analytics and Business Intelligence (DBI) has removed some names, phone numbers and addresses from the Open Data Portal, but at a city council hearing Monday, officials recommended removing most identity information.

The recommendations include: removing Personally Identifying Information from all public safety data files currently published and all files on the portal and delaying publishing data on Active Police Calls by at least 24 hours.

“Hopefully it would encourage people to make reports about something that has happened or speak without concern,” Dr. Brita Andercheck, director of the city’s Office of Data Analytics and Business Intelligence said.

The agency argues removing information would protect minors and victims of sexual violence. Cities like Arlington and Irving already shield the names of people who report crimes.

“We talk very often about making information available, not less. And making things more transparent, not less,” said Council member Cara Mendelsohn, who serves as vice chair of the Public Safety Committee. “I just don't feel like there should have been a decision that didn't get council input and didn't get community input.”

In October, the DBI said it removed all Dallas Police Department Victim/ Reporting/Witness Identity information from the Open Data Portal and messaged Council members of the redaction of crime victim data.

The memo said, “The City of Dallas is committed to protecting sensitive data and adhering to best data practices. The purpose of this memo is to inform the Public Safety Committee of our intent to continue this protection of sensitive data on the Dallas Open Data Portal.”

Social justice activists argue the move will make it harder for citizens to know what’s happening in their community.

“[Police Chief Eddie] Garcia is going backwards, not forwards, with transparency,” Dallas resident Avi Adelman said. “Just because other departments are doing it doesn’t mean we have to.”

Adelman has operated DallasPoliceWatch.com for 15 years. The website takes public data pages from the city servers and breaks it down.

To get basic information on past and new police offense reports could be available later, but only after a public records request, which could take much longer.

Mendelsohn called for a meeting with the full city council. No date for this discussion has been set.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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