Balkan Criminology at TODO National Open Data Conference

Between 20-22 September 2021 the TODO National Open Data Conference took place. Balkan Criminology was presented by Prof. Dr. Anna-Maria Getoš Kalac, Head of Balkan Criminology, through a talk on “Strategies for Enhancing the Supply of Open Government Data in the Criminal Justice Sector". The presentation discussed the state of art in open government data in the criminal justice sector with a particular focus on root causes of its suboptimal availability and potential strategies enhancing its supply.

Abstract: In Croatia, just as throughout the whole region of Southeast Europe, we witness a certain ‘culture of importance’ (Croatian: bitnost) across major areas of public and private life. This ‘culture of importance’ is mainly characterized by trading in influence and as such essentially builds on one’s ability to be, or at least convincingly act, as a gatekeeper. Now, in the context of open government data on crime, such gatekeeping is very effectively concealed behind the pretext of (operational) security risks and (potential) sensitivity of the data in question. The relevant policy- and decision-makers are frequently quite unaware of the numerous benefits of open government data, in fact, they are being convinced (usually by the gatekeepers themselves) into the dangerousness and unforeseeable catastrophic (political) harmfulness of open government data. This creates general distrust and suspicion towards anyone inquiring access to government data, particularly researchers, but even more journalists, whereas in such a setting neither policy- nor decision-makers, least of all the gatekeepers, the ‘owners of the data’, have any interest in granting access or supplying data. 

In such a situation, researchers (alike journalists) are basically faced with a trilemma: 1) inquire data access via lengthy and commonly unsuccessful formal procedures, 2) acquire data access via informal ‘networking’ with relevant gatekeepers, or 3) conduct their research based on whatever data might be openly available, regardless of its suboptimal quality and quantity or lacking methodological framework. Clearly, none of the three options helps solve the underlying problem of limited open government data, but rather adds to it. However, there might be a meaningful solution by building interest-driven synergies through ‘research-practice partnerships’. The paper at hand analyses the hows as well as the pros and cons of such partnerships, based on 15 years of extensive experience in open crime data analysis and a case study from the criminal justice sector. It builds on the belief that it is primarily the research community that is called upon to kick-off a constructive dialogue with relevant government stakeholders and to demonstrate a policy and practice oriented research approach. By building common grounds, creating incentives for supplying open government data and fostering mutual trust, ‘research-practice partnerships’ not only solve the underlying problem of limited open data, but more importantly, they are the very foundation of evidence-based (crime) policy and far better research. Obviously, in a perfect world, researchers would not need to explain the necessities and benefits of open government data, let alone create incentives for data access or its supply. But then again, in a perfect world, there would be little if any use for us researchers, now would there?      


  • Getoš Kalac, A., Bezić, R. & Šprem, P. (2021) „Ružno pače“ hrvatskoga kaznenog pravosuđa – zatvorski sustav u svjetlu domaćih i europskih trendova (proširena verzija). Godišnjak Akademije pravnih znanosti Hrvatske = Croatian Academy of legal sciences yearbook, XII (1), 83-112
  • Getoš Kalac, A. & Pribisalić, D. (2020) Tamna i svijetla strana tamne brojke kriminala: O izazovima istraživanja nepoznanica i blagoslovu neznanja. Zbornik Pravnog fakulteta u Zagrebu, 70 (5), 637-673; 
  • Getoš Kalac, A., Šprem, P. & Šimunić, N. (2020) Anatomija i geografija nasilja u Hrvatskoj i u europskom kontekstu. MUP Zbornik radovi Istraživački dani Visoke policijske škole u Zagrebu, 1, 501-529; 
  • Getoš Kalac, A., Roksandić Vidlička, S. & Burić, Z. (2020) Victimology, Victimisation (Typology) & Victim Protection in Croatia. In: Meško, G., Sárik, E. & Getoš Kalac, A. (ur.) Mapping the Victimological Landscape of the Balkans: A Regional Study on Victimology and Victim Protection with a Critical Analysis of Current Victim Policies. Berlin ; Freiburg ; Zagreb, Duncker & Humblot in coop. with Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften e.V. and University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Law, str. 223-276; 
  • Getoš Kalac, A. & Bezić, R. (2017) Criminology, crime and criminal justice in Croatia. European Journal of Criminology, 14 (2), 242-266.