Houston Police Department

Enhanced Web Service Offers New Functionality for Active Incidents Web App

This summer, I had the opportunity to meet local developer and .Net extraordinaire David M. Wilson at a Civic Hack Night. David showed several of us a civic innovation project he developed after the first City of Houston Hackathon in 2013. The project is a real-time web app that shows active City of Houston fire incidents based on a test web service available on the Interim Open Data Portal. The web app also provides users the ability to search historical events, including the humorously titled "Dumpster on Fire" incident (which occurs with surprising frequency).

During our conversation, David told us he was still improving the application in his spare time and would be interested in integrating in police active incidents. The City currently has a tabular view of active HPD vehicle incidents available online but the data isn't available for historical analysis nor is it geographic based. We all agreed it would be a great idea to add these HPD incidents to the web service and we went to work trying to find who maintained the test web service. The City of Houston is relatively inexperienced with web services (outside of the built-in functionality ESRI provides for their mapping services), but with a little trial and error our IT team was able to make a quick change to the code. Within a couple minutes of the change, David's application successfully received its first HPD incidents without incident (pun intended).

You can check out David's project at http://dmwilson.info/ and you can find his code on GitHub. The project is a great example of what's possible when local governments make their data freely available as web services, and it also serves as a great instructional tool for other developers looking to integrate active incidents into their apps. If you have feedback on the active incidents web service or suggestions for how the City can better use web services we want to hear from you, so comment below!

Frank C. Bracco is a Senior Staff Analyst for the City of Houston Finance Department and is a member of the Performance Improvement Division. Frank holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Economics from the University of Florida and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

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