Where most traffic tickets are written in Dallas

Wondering where most traffic ticket are written in Dallas? The below heatmap is from a dataset that includes Dallas (city) tickets 2004-2012 and Dallas County tickets 2006-2012. (Beginning and end years are partial.)

I am assembling this dataset for my in-progress doctorate. (I am a doctoral candidate.)

Heat map of traffic tickets written in Dallas

A couple of notes to help interpretation:

  • This is for all officer-written traffic tickets: speeding, red light running, paperwork violations, equipment violations, etc.
  • Does not include:
    • Tickets unrelated to traffic, like disturbing the peace or drug possession.
    • Parking tickets.
    • A modest % of tickets that I could not geocode due to no address, bad address data, or limitations of my geocoder.
    • Portions of Dallas outside Dallas County.
    • Tickets written by other jursdictions. I left out Texas Department of Public Safety because they have hardly any activity in Dallas County except for NTTA freeways. Dallas heavily patrols the NTTA-owned Mountain Creek Lake Bridge, however!
    • Tickets sent directly to county courts instead of municipal or JP courts, like DUI.
    • Automated ticketing machines like Dallas’s red light cameras.
  • This may modestly understate Dallas County sheriff and constable tickets because I have about 2 more years of Dallas city tickets in here.

I find it surprising that the most significant traffic enforcement activities are generally not along major roadways, but rather are in areas of town commonly perceived as dangerous.

Two huge peaks are at the Five Points area (Park Ln. east of US 75) and Ferguson/Buckner. Other obvious areas of emphasis:

  • Downtown
  • Maple and Wycliff
  • Just north of Bachman Lake
  • Pleasant Grove
  • Oak Cliff
  • Fair Park
  • North Skillman
  • Red Bird area

It’s as if traffic enforcement is largely being used as a pretext for arrests and searches that might otherwise be difficult to pass constitutional muster. That may be interesting as commentary, but it is not a focus for my research. I’m really focucing on the safety effect of enforcement.

There is an apparent focus on intersections, although it’s possible that this is an artifact of officers writing in the nearest intersection for the ticket’s address.

Doctorate update

It’s been 2½ years since my last doctorate progress update on this blog. Here’s a new one!

I have a lot in front of me, but at least there’s a light at the end of the tunnel!

In early 2008, I seriously considered switching to a PhD in Civil Engineering with emphasis in traffic management. I weighed the decision carefully and decided to pass. I am already “stretching it” with a 12 hour praxis; the 24 hour PhD dissertation would have been too much. Plus I would have had to take two more courses. And in the end, what does a PhD mean for me? Since I don’t desire tenure track professorship, the Doctorate of Engineering, a professional doctorate, is just as relevant to my career.

So I sat around for a year and didn’t do much. Then in late 2008, I finally hatched a praxis plan. In a nutshell, I am doing statistical analysis on traffic citations. The goal is to see whether I can find a mathematical or statistical relationship, leading or lagging, between traffic enforcement and other measures, such as roadway safety, revenue, court docket clearance, and so on. What I can analyze all depends on the data I can turn up.

Starting in early 2009, I lodged the first of many open records requests. I got a small grant from a nonprofit to help with open records expenses. It wasn’t until late summer 2009 that I got serious about open records requests. I spent the fall and the first half of spring 2010 hounding jurisdictions for their data.

Generally, the larger jurisdictions (Dallas, Dallas County, Richardson, Texas DPS, etc.) have been easiest to work with. The smaller jurisdictions (Sachse, Ferris, Wilmer, Cockrell Hill, etc.) have been challenging, to say the least.

In the second half of spring semester 2010, I focused on qualifying exams. I have five advisors; four gave me qualifying exams. Three exams were two weeks each, but the fourth exam has no deadline. (And I haven’t started it yet. Yipe!) I passed the three I turned in, and I need to get that fourth one done! One thing is clear: I am rusty on my statistical skills and need to bone back up on experimental statistical analysis and design.

I made little progress in summer 2010. Life just got busy, partly while preparing for Tiger Cubs for my son, planning a fantastic Colorado vacation (see my Facebook photos page), and other stuff.

After the vacation, I got back into gear and resumed work. Which leads up to right now. I am typing this blog post while my laptop’s CPU is being thrashed by a custom C# program that is geocoding all of Dallas’s traffic citations. That is, I have a program that is trying to create a workable address from Dallas’s somewhat consistent records, run it through Microsoft MapPoint, and then record the latitude and longitude in a database. This laptop is old and creaky, so it’s taking a while. I’ll let it run overnight, and hopefully it’ll finish all 2.7 million citations (roughly 50% are traffic-related).

I want to get this geocoding done so that I can start doing some maps of the data, so I can at least demonstrate that I’m not sitting on my hands. My grant donor has been very patient, but I want to demonstrate that something is really going on. Once I do that, I’ll get back to that fourth qualifying exam and resume hounding the challenging jurisdictions for their data. For some of these cities, it’s time for me to start sending them certified letters and maybe talking to district attorneys!

After the fourth qualifying exam is done, I have to do a written research proposal, oral qualifying exam to my entire research committee, and a proposal presentation. Presuming I pass all of that, I become a doctoral candidate and am “officially” approved to do praxis research. That doesn’t mean my existing research is illegitimate, but it does mean I am taking a risk of losing all this effort so far. But based on the reaction of my doctoral committee members, I think they are intrigued by this research, so I don’t expect the proposed praxis topic to cause any problems.

To allow time for doctorate work, dropped out of a lot of stuff. I ended my neighborhood association presidency after 4 good years. I am no longer District Commissioner for White Rock District, serving a 2 year term. I dropped off the White Rock Lake Task Force, bowed out of the Dallas Arboretum IT Advisory Committee, and am appreciating how the Garland Road Vision‘s work has come to completion. I’m even having trouble making it to SMU Alumni Band rehearsals and performances!

Except now I am Tiger Cub Den Leader. And my den has 11 boys. Argh!

I have no idea when I’ll be done with this doctorate. All my prior predictions have been scuttled. I am just glad I am actually in the middle of the praxis and have a viable topic!

I’ve already told my wife that, once this is done, I’m sitting on my butt and doing nothing. For a long time.

The Lancet, research, future of journals, and global warming

I am listening to a podcast of A Shot of Reality on NPR’s On The Media’s Feb. 5, 2010 show.

The host is interviewing Richard Horton, the editor of The Lancet, a British medical journal recently made (in)famous for feeding the vaccine/autism hoax.

The editor says The Lancet must be more careful in the future.

Translation: more of The Lancet‘s future articles will support the status quo. This will reduce hoaxes, but it crowds out legitimate alternative theories.

Are academic journals even relevant? Whatever relevancy they have is mainly because the research community is clinging to an outdated model. And let’s don’t forget these wickedly expensive journals have their own fiscal incentive to perpetuate themselves.

Research is living and constantly evolving. Why then rely on a content delivery method that can only create frozen, dead documents? Where corrections require new, frozen documents? This is silly.

Some say if we don’t have journals, we effectively lose the peer review process because respected academics aren’t the gatekeepers. Hardly. Wikipedia’s not perfect, but it shows that a completely open model, that even allows anonymous editing, can produce highly reliable information. Services like the Educause-sponsored academia.edu show it shouldn’t be hard to limit involvement just to the research community–not to the “select few” researchers but the entire community. This increases veracity by at least an order of magnitude.

Richard Horton said that Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the originator of the fraudulent research, was respected politically and academically for years, and his words were taken as “gospel truth.”

Doesn’t this sound familiar? Doesn’t this sound like James Hansen, Al Gore, IPCC, etc.? All of whom deliver polemic research so political, agenda-driven, and error-full that people are stating to question the scientific basis of global warming?

Doctorate progress

As of December 2007, my doctorate coursework is done! I have completed 66 hours of graduate coursework, including the 30 hours earned for my Master of Science in Computer Science (they used up my doctorate electives).

“School’s out forever”? Not by a long shot!

If something happened and I needed to quit now, I could walk with a Master of Science in Engineering Management. As tempting as that sounds, I need to push on.

All that sits between me completing my Doctorate of Engineering in Engineering Management is the praxis. A praxis is a giant research project that’s equivalently difficult as four graduate courses. But before I do that, I still have to assemble my supervisory committee and passing a qualifying exam.

I will meet with my research adviser soon to discuss next steps.

Doctorate progress

My doctorate is showing signs of progress! To recap, I am working towards a Doctorate of Engineering in Engineering Management through Southern Methodist University Engineering School‘s Department of Engineering Management and Information Science. (I am simultaneously enrolled in a Master of Science in Engineering Management, but this is only in case the doctorate falls through.)

On Friday, I passed my Preliminary Counseling Exam. This was a 30 minute chat with three EMIS department professors where they verified knowledge of basic concepts. I flubbed some precise definitions (e.g., couldn’t remember the exact words behind the abbreviation MARR), but I showed competence in the heuristics of the concepts. For most of the session, we chatted about my proposed praxis topic, which is on speed limits. This topic dovetails well with engineering management, especially with its economic implications.

My research advisor agrees that I have finished all advanced coursework, so I am formally cleared to begin the preliminary praxis steps of assembling my supervisory committee and passing a qualifying exam.

This degree requires 66 credit hours of coursework and a 12 hour praxis. To date, I have earned 52 hours. Fortunately, my Master of Science in Computer Science, which I earned in May 2003, satisfied all the elective credits for the doctorate, so I am really only doing twelve courses beyond that degree.

I have finished the following courses. (EMIS means Engineering Management and Information Sciencece (my department), CSE means Computer Science and Engineering, ENCE means Environmental and Civil Engineering, and CISB is for the Cox School of Businesses‘s Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship.)

  • EMIS 7370 – Engineering Statistics
  • EMIS 8360 – Operations Research
  • EMIS 7362 – Production and Operations Management
  • EMIS 8378 – Optimization Models for Decision Support
  • ENCE 7391 – Urban Transportation Systems
  • EMIS 8361 – Economic Decision Analysis
  • EMIS 8363 – Engineering Finance
  • CSE 8344 – Computer Networks
  • CSE 7382 – Computer Graphics
  • CSE 7348 – Internetworking Protocols
  • CSE 8313 – Object-Oriented Analysis & Design
  • CSE 8340 – Software Practicum
  • CSE 8391 – Mobile Computing & Databases
  • CSE 7350 – Algorithm Engineering
  • CSE 8330 – Database Management Systems
  • CSE 7381 – Computer Architecture
  • CSE 7394 – XML & Java
  • CSE 7192 – IP & Information Technology

This spring, I will take Experimental Statistics (STAT 5372) and Network Flows ( (EMIS 8374). I expect this spring to be the most difficult semester of my graduate career. I hope I get through it without too much bruising!

After this spring, I have three courses left:

  • CISB 6210 – Essential Law For The Entrepreneur (this is an MBA course)
  • EMIS 8362 – Engineering Accounting
  • EMIS 8364 – Management for Engineers

…and that pesky praxis.