On Sunday night I watched a few news stories on MSNBC concerning sexual slavery and prostitution, including “Sex Slaves in the Suburbs.” The premise of this show was that young females are being kidnapped and forced into prostitution against their will. Additionally, law enforcement treats the kidnappings as runaways. The show was quite moving with a particularly emotional testimony by a young female.
I was curious how prevalent cases of runaways were in the United States. I went to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) website and performed a search for all “Endangered Runaways” in the US that occurred between 1/1/2008 and 2/9/2009. I found 621 individuals, both male and female. The Department of Justice (DOJ) defines an endangered runaway as a runaway that has certain “factors such as substance dependency, use of hard drugs, sexual or physical abuse, presence in a place where criminal activity was occurring, or extremely young age (13 years old or younger).”
One of the only studies I found concerning runaways was the DOJ study, Runaway/Thrownaway Children: National Estimates and Characteristics. According to the report there were quite a few more endangered runaways back in 1999 that my findings at NCMEC’s website seem suspect. The report states that there is “suggestive evidence” that the incidences of runaways have declined in recent years. But it seems my findings are quite low compared to the number of expected endangered runaways based on the report. I am not sure the discrepancy, however it is probable that some of the endangered children in the DOJ report were recovered but still reported which is in contrast to the NCMEC which only lists currently missing endangered runaways. Also there is the possibility that the NCMEC and various state agencies have not identified the children as endangered, simply runaways.
I have been tinkering with GeoCommons Finder and Maker of late. Finder is a data repository where users upload spatial data (either csv, shapefile or kml) and others can easily view and download the same data. If a user desires to map the data they can use Maker to create single variate or multivariate maps.
In the past when I have wanted to visualize data on the fly I either had to load up my GIS and create a base map, import the data and then make it pretty. This process (especially if a base map was not present) could take quite a bit of time. Google Maps was available to map small datasets. If I took the time I could create a mashup and put it on a hosted site. However, this can take a little bit of time, especially when I did not had a website to use for hosting.
Geocommons allows neophyte and experienced users a location to find data, or upload data and then quickly create a pleasing cartographic map. Of course if the data is not available you will have to create or find the data. Once found the data will probably need to be cleaned; it seems most datasets need a little cleaning. Obviously if you are upload a shapefile or KML the data has spatial element, however if you are uploading a csv file (such as a list of businesses) you will have to geocode the list to obtain the latitude and longitude of each location. Finder has some great tutorials on their site that show users how to use services such as Batch Geocoder to find the geographic locations of your data.
For my project I uploaded and mapped out the US Government’s fiscal year 2009 per diem rates. The per diem rates show how much the government will pay its employees for lodging and meals while they are traveling the country on business. For those locations that do not have any data the rate is $70 for lodging and $39 for meals and incidental, per day.