Categorized | Crime

New Crime Fighter – CrimeReports.com

BY DANIEL MCGLYNN //

If you took 24 crimes that happened in El Cerrito in the past two weeks – broke them into categories like theft, burglary, sexual offense, etc., then color coded those crimes and stuck them on a map – you would start to see some patterns in the recent criminal activity.

Gone are the old school police logs, published weekly in the local paper, instead law enforcement agencies are putting crime information on the web. Using applications like Google maps and real-time data entry, police departments can use the Internet as a crime prevention and awareness tool.

El Cerrito, in the past month, has launched a new crime map link on the city website. The map, from CrimeReports.com, enables the El Cerrito Police Department to share crime data in “near real time,” according to the website.

Chief of Police Scott Kirkland said, “an informed community is a better community,” when talking about the value of the new crime maps system. The ability for El Cerrito residents to see what kinds of crimes are happening in their neighborhoods, around schools, and near local businesses, is part of the chief’s goal to “get the message out to the public.”

The new crime reporting system updates daily so “community members can access their neighborhood crime info for free, empowering them to make well informed decisions to help improve the safety of their family, friends, property, and community at large,“ the website says.

In early efforts to help people understand what’s going on in their neighborhood, the El Cerrito Police Department has been posting press releases about criminal activity on the city’s website since 2000. Later the format was slightly altered to a weekly posting of crimes, which the chief said, was “well received.”

Besides offering current crime data, CrimeReports.com also has features that allow citizens to interact with the information. The crimes, reported at the block level to protect victim’s privacy, are sorted by type. For example, the crimes reported last week in El Cerrito were a vehicle theft – with a green V symbol, breaking and entering – with a dark blue B symbol, theft – with a light blue T symbol, and sexual offense – with a red S symbol. All of these symbols are aggregated and placed on a Google map.

Chief Kirkland said that the website is a practical way for the public to stay informed and for small police departments, which are often overlooked by large media outlets, to interact with the public. That, and the service is cost effective, incurring a monthly expense of about $100. Other local cities that have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for similar services that don’t work as well, said the chief.

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