How many hours a day is your police station open?

Category: Best data-driven reporting (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: Ireland

Organisation: The Irish Times

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 17/08/2019

Credit: Nora-Ide McAuliffe

Project description:

This project looked at the opening hours of Garda (police) stations in Ireland to ascertain what opening hours around the country were truly like. My analysis found that almost 60 per cent of Garda stations are open for three hours or less Monday to Friday while many are closed at the weekend. 

Impact reached:

Cuts to Ireland’s police force and in particular the rise of crime in rural Ireland has been a top issue in Ireland for the last number of years. While much has been reported about the full closure of Garda stations, cuts to personnel and resources, the issue of opening hours in stations that are still functioning has been less reported on. The impact of this project was to illustrate what opening hours in areas that have Garda stations are truly like to allow people gain a better understanding of how frequently or indeed infrequently their station is open. By illustrating the data through a map, readers’ were not only able to look at specific opening hours for all stations around the country, they were also, due to the colour scheme of the map, able to see the spread of 24 hour Garda stations and their locations. 

Techniques/technologies used:

I used Google Spreadsheets to create the database and to run the data analysis in this project. The main calculation techniques I used were addition and percentage calculation to find out the number of stations open one hour, two hours etc. Tableau was used to visualize the data. 

What was the hardest part of this project?

There were a few challenging aspects to this project. One was the creation of the working database as this involved copying and pasting the information from the 564 Garda station directory made available online, into Google Sheets which took a considerable amount of time. Another challenging aspect was having to phone some Garda stations to confirm their opening hours (as the Garda press office could not confirm) as it was evident some of them had not been entered incorrectly (ie giving hours as 2am to 6pm in rural areas which I believed seemed strange, this for example usually turned to to be 2pm -6pm) but trying to get hold of a garda in the station to confirm the correct hours, was, in some cases difficult and took a number of attempts, often over a few days, due to the limited opening hours etc. Also due to the nature of the data and the database I created, calculating the opening hours of each station had to be done manually and so this was also quite time consuming when coupled when having to double and triple check the work. I believe this project should be selected as it puts the much disucssed issue of Garda resourcing into a data context in a way that has not been done before. Through the data, readers can get a real insight into Garda opening hours and what the current state of play is regarding this aspect of policing on both a local and national level. 

What can others learn from this project?


Project links: