An Open Opportunity
The SPD, like local police departments across the country, tracks crime reports in a database. This public information is published weekly by the Somerville Journal in its crime and arrests logs. To its credit, the SPD used to publish ward-based crime statistics in 2005 and 2006. However, nowhere can one go to see up-to-date chronological and categorized map of crime around the community. To be able to do so would empower residents to know how safe their neighborhood is and where and what to watch to deter crime. It would probably catalyze neighborhood crime watches and make our streets safer.
An email group called Somerville Crime Watch was started back in February and has attracted 24 members so far, including myself. This grass-roots group was started by someone who wanted to share statistics about home break-ins gleaned from the City’s website. There has also been discussion about plotting break-ins on a map, although no one has had the time to keep up with such an intensive effort. There must be a better way.
A Tool Exists
When I posed a question on the ResiStat blog to the City about the feasibility of publishing/mapping its crime data online, the response was basically that the SPD Chief Holloway would be open to doing this, but only if the data can be published at the block-level, rather than the address-level, so that individuals can still be protected.
As I just discovered today, there exists just such a solution to this problem, called CrimeReports.com. They have built an online infrastructure that can read out the crime data from a local police department’s database and publish these public records on their website for all to see, at block-level if need be. According to their FAQ, they charge a city with over 50,000 inhabitants just $199 per month.
Somerville’s Neighbors Lead The Way
According to the CrimeReports list of participating departments in Mass., Medford, Everett, Malden, Boston, Brookline, and Watertown all publish their crime data with this website. So why not Somerville? I will be emailing Chief Holloway about this and will report back on his response.
Why stop at crime data? The City could be publishing many types of public records online including parking ticket/towing data, 311 services requests, and maps of property tax assessments. In fact, this is eventually what the parent company of CrimeReports, Public Engines (based in Salt Lake City) intends to be able to offer.
Do you think Somerville should publish its crime data and other public records online?
Does CrimeReports.com seem to offer a reasonable solution?
Please share your thoughts below.