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Crime Mapping from crimereports.com

Written by James Careless

Crime statistics are a real problem for police departments. They need the info themselves. And, they occasionally need to give the public an accurate idea of what offenses are being committed and where they are taking place. CrimeReports.com provides law enforcement agencies with an affordable and easy-to-use Web-based service for managing and controlling crime data in near real time. It is a very inexpensive way to get real-time crime mapping.

The data details the date and time that the crime occurred, the type of crime, the location, the incident identifier number, plus which police agency and beat the crime occurred within. CrimeReports.com presents the data on a Google-style map, with each type of crime location marked with distinctive flags (i.e., B for break and enter, TV for theft from vehicle).

The ability of this software to map crimes allows senior police managers to deploy resources to specifically counter crime hot spots. The events on the map may be sorted by crime, by date or by distance. The review period that appears on the map may be three days, seven days, 14 days or 30 days. A calendar option allows you to pick any period of time between two dates.

CrimeReports enables participating law enforcement agencies to manage and control their own data and determine what information they deem appropriate to share with the public. Although CrimeReports.com allows its departmental subscribers to specify their own crime classifications, the site does offer a default structure of 15 general crime type categories and 21 subcategories of crime and calls for service based on UCR/NIBRS definitions.

Categories include Assault, Breaking & Entering, Homicide, Proactive Policing (Community Policing, Pedestrian Stop, Vehicle Stop), Property Crime, Quality of Life (Disorder, Liquor, Drugs), Registered Sex Offenders, Robbery (Violent), Sex Offenses, Theft, Traffic Enforcement, Theft from Vehicle, Theft of Vehicle and Vehicle Recovery. The Other category covers Alarm, Arson, Death, Family Offense, Kidnapping, Missing Person and Weapons Offenses. Each of these terms is searchable. A Crime Types option allows all these different crimes to be selected or hidden, i.e., individually selected.

Each crime marker on the crime map is identified in a separate display on the screen with the date, time, exact location, nature of the call and an internal identifier number. Any crime or event can be filtered in or filtered out and overlapped with any other crime or event. This makes it extremely easy to identify hot spots by crime, by day, time and location. It also allows the commander to deploy officers in an effective way.

For example, traffic units can be deployed to perform traffic enforcement duties in areas with a higher frequency of crime. The mapping makes it extremely easy for the commander to verify that traffic stops overlap these higher crime areas. This will be a deterrence, or at the very least, put units close to the scene for a faster response.

From LA to DC

At present, 310 police and sheriff’s agencies across the U.S. and Canada departments have subscribed to CrimeReports.com. These agencies now have the means to get crime reports directly to their residents in near real time and at a fraction of the cost of traditional mapping tools. These departments serve local populations ranging from 5,000 to more than 1 million residents, including San Jose; San Diego; San Francisco; Los Angeles County; Columbus, OH; Reno, NV; Washington, DC and Ottawa, Canada. The company has recently signed an agreement with the state of Utah to provide the CrimeReports.com service to all law enforcement agencies in the state.

“We partner with local law enforcement agencies, enabling these agencies to manage and publish crime information for their jurisdictions,” said CrimeReports.com President and CEO Greg Whisenant. “We also collect data from local, state and federal agencies’ sources to provide public information to communities throughout the United States, including the Sex Offender Registry in many states.”

“To maintain privacy, subscribing law enforcement agencies remove victim identification before submitting data to us,” Whisenant said. “In addition, we protect victim identities by converting exact street addresses to the ‘block level’. For example, the address ‘1215 Maple Drive’ would be mapped and displayed as ‘1200 block of Maple Drive’.”

CrimeReports.com uses the Global Justice XML Data Model (Global JXDM), effectively “receiving” data from the agency through a secure connection. To create the secure connection from the RMS/CAD system, we developed the CrimeReports Publisher (“The Publisher”), which integrates with all RMS/CAD systems. The Publisher ensures that the management and control of all RMS/CAD data remains in the hands of the law enforcement agency at all times. Using the Publisher, agencies configure the connection and define the parameters for the information that they want to share. They also schedule a specific time to publish the data, and the data is published to the CrimeReports.com website.

Community Access

In spite of the obvious usefulness of this crime mapping for internal police use, CrimeReports.com was originally created to help law enforcement agencies put crime data in the hands of residents. While crime statistics in a specific city may be available, they may not be accessible. CrimeReports.com standardizes the way law enforcement agencies communicate crime data to the public, down to the specific neighborhood or block they live on.

When law enforcement officers respond to a crime, a report is made and kept on file for future reference. Crime reports are public records.

Community members can then access their neighborhood crime information for free, empowering them to make informed decisions to help improve the safety of their families, friends, property and the community at large.

Law enforcement agencies have ultimate control over the data they report to the public through CrimeReports.com. In most cases CrimeReports.com integrates with an agency’s RMS or CAD system through a simple ODBC connection.

CrimeReports.com is a community-facing Web application, and as such, it emphasizes the user experience. A CrimeReports.com user simply enters an address of interest (home, office, school, etc.) and clicks on “Get Report” to see criminal activity in a given area on an easy-to-use map interface. The CrimeReports.com Web application also integrates data from multiple agencies into a single interface and offers automated, location-based alerting services.

“CrimeReports.com will prove particularly valuable to those in the community who want to stay informed about what is going on in their neighborhoods, with again, the hope that they will work with [the police department] to address these issues,” said Chief Rob Davis, San Jose, CA Police Department.

Community members can visit www.CrimeReports.com any time to view crime incident reports for any participating jurisdiction. Based on the type of data the agency chooses to make available, community members can also sign up to receive daily, weekly or monthly e-mail alerts regarding criminal activity and police dispatch calls for service in their neighborhoods. The majority of crime and call incident records are available indefinitely on CrimeReports.com.

Police-Only Tools

The data collected by CrimeReports.com serve as the basis of a powerful, police-only, analytical tool called Command Central. According to Whisenant, “Command Central tracks, manages and controls incident-level crime data in real time using charts, graphs, maps and other visualizations. It includes a dashboard display with multiple features, including Anomaly Detection, which alerts users when crime rates change, and Trending Visualizations, an interactive map showing hot spots indicating crime on the rise.”

Other Command Central features include the time of day / day of week that displays when selected crimes occur most frequently and RollCall, a scrolling list of the most recent crime incidents. Also provided are Area Comparison, a bar graph that compares the number of selected crimes in multiple areas; Crime Over Time, selected crimes over a selected period of time; and Crime Type Comparison, a bar graph that compares the number of incidents of a specific crime versus other crimes in a selected area.

Costs for CrimeReports Tools

CrimeReports.com is free to access by the public and includes automated e-mail crime alerts. Law enforcement agencies can sign up for a monthly subscription fee to publish any and all crime and call data they wish to share. Fees range from $49 per month to $199 per month, depending on the population residing in the agency’s jurisdiction.

The price for Command Central is still being defined, but the company says the goal is to make it affordable to agencies of all sizes that currently store their data electronically but struggle to find cost-effective ways to analyze the data.

CrimeReports.com comes with a free 30-day trial, so your department can try it out without spending a cent. Since it works with existing RMS and CAD crime records, supplying data to CrimeReports.com doesn’t require extra effort on the part of your officers. CrimeReports.com’s people will also help your IT department establish the necessary data links so that your data (as defined by you) gets forwarded automatically.

The bottom line is that you should give CrimeReports.com a look. It may be a worthwhile addition to your informational arsenal. At the very least, go to the website and surf around a bit. Enter 92101, the zip code for metro San Diego, or 46216, the zip code for the small Indianapolis suburb of Lawrence. See how fast you can turn this info into CompStat feedback for patrol!

James Careless is a freelance writer who specializes in first responder communications issues. He can be reached at jcareless5000@yahoo.com.

Published in Law and Order, Jun 2009

Rating : 10.0


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