If the weather channel doesn’t do it for you – you can now look at maps with crime locations,

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  January 24, 2013   Effective immediately, Halton residents can access neighbourhood-level crime incident data from the previous day, week, or month, or even search as far back as six months ago through a new crime mapping function that can be accessed through the Service’s website www.haltonpolice.ca.

“Providing reliable, timely crime data to the communities we serve is one of our top priorities, because an informed public is a safer public,” says Halton Chief of Police Steve Tanner. “This partnership with CrimeReports gives us the ability to keep the public informed on a regular basis as to what is going on in our community.”

Police dispatch data is stripped of personal information, including the exact address, and sent securely to CrimeReports.com, which hosts the crime mapping software.  The public can access the data through the Service’s website, under the Crime Files/Mapping navigation button.

Each of the small coloured squares on the map indicates a crime – theft from an auto, a break and enter or an assault. Click on the graphic and you get some detail.  Will you be safer with this information – probably not.  Will you feel safer?  Maybe – nice toy which we are paying for.

Incidents reflected on the map will be shown within 100 numbers of the address, to protect individual’s privacy, while still being within the general vicinity to give people an accurate idea of crime in their neighbourhood.

The crime mapping data will include police-dispatched calls for property damage, sexual assault, assault, robbery, break and enter, theft, impaired driving, homicide, attempted murder, offensive weapons, drug-related offences, and various traffic-related offences such as impaired driving, hit and run, and motor vehicle injuries and fatalities.

“Information is power,” Chief Tanner added. “We hope that by giving the community this information, it will help them understand crime trends and better enable them to assist us in preventing crime in their neighbourhoods.”

The public can access the free crime data through the Service’s website or through the CrimeReports iPhone app, available for free download in the Apple iTunes store. The new service even lets local citizens sign up for free customizable email updates, so they can monitor crime in their neighborhood, or click to link to the CrimeStoppers of Halton website to file an anonymous crime tip.

The HRPS asks the public to keep a few things in mind when accessing the software:

• In order to access the data, people will need to first read and click a disclaimer

• It takes a few minutes for the map data to load, depending on your internet connection. Please be patient.

• Map data is based on dispatched calls, not completed investigations so therefore incident codes may change.

“Police are often dispatched to a call that initially may be reported as a one type of crime and later turn out to be unfounded or another type of crime.  In such a case, the call will appear on the map as initially reported but later be removed or changed,” explained Chief Tanner. “The crime map data is as accurate as possible, but not 100% fool-proof given the evolving nature of police investigations.”

This looks like one of the ideas Chief Tanner brought with him from Kingston where he was the top cop before he came to Burlington.

LATER:  Having read what the police had to say about the service I logged in – and sure enough there is a map with little squares in different colours that tell me the kind of offence that took place.  There was a drug bust over on Inglehart – not too far from me and a theft from an auto on Walkers Line but nothing on my street.

So what does this service do to keep me safer?   I guess knowing that there was a drug arrest on my street would let me know there is a dealer nearby if drugs are my recreation of choice or tell me that I can keep an eye out for “suspicious” behavior and call the police.   Noticing that there were a number of auto break-ins in the area might get me to ensure that my car is locked before I bed down for the night.

And of course there is an App for this too – so I can keep up to date on crime on my street while on the GO train.  Or – I can add even more to my overflowing email box and get a notice sent directly  to me telling me what’s happening in the “hood”.

There is no mention of what the service is costing – it can’t be free but it sure is a  whiz bag toy if there is nothing on TV – I guess.

Ain’t technology great?

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