You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 3:19 p.m.

Police say residents benefit as more departments upload information to new crime-mapping website

By Tom Perkins

Many Washtenaw County residents can now go online and find out what crimes are occurring in their neighborhood.

The Washtenaw County Sherriff’s Department recently began including their jurisdictions’ crimes on Pittsfield Township and Ann Arbor, as well as neighboring Van Buren Township and Canton, began providing information for the site last year.

The website works by displaying a map of a municipality or region selected by the user. The user can zoom in and out of a map, type in an address or select a police agency.

The map shows crimes from the previous week, but the user can change that to show all crimes as far back as 90 days.

The location of the crime is pinpointed on the map with a small icon depicting the type of crime that occurred. For example, a drug- or alcohol-related arrest has a graphic of a needle. A fist means an assault occurred, and a gun indicates the location of a weapons crime. Only type 1 — generally more violent — crimes are available.

If there were multiple crimes at one scene, then the number of crimes reported is displayed and residents can click on that to see the different crimes.

Another feature is a “crime report” that breaks down in graph form what type of crimes occurred in a selected region over a period of time. The feature also offers a graph of the type of crimes that occurred on each day of the week.

Crimes are not posted in real time and could take days two to three days to be posted to the website, depending on the type of case. Sheriff’s Department spokesman Derrick Jackson said the only crimes on the site are those for which reports have been approved by a supervisor. More serious crimes often require more time to file a full report, he said.

Residents can sign up for alerts from either via email or a downloaded iPhone application.

The page is a helpful tool for the department because it gives residents more information about the crimes in their area, Jackson said.

As an example, Jackson said he found out after his own home was burglarized that his neighbor’s house had been burglarized the previous week. Had he known that sooner, he probably would have turned on his house alarm and been more aware, he said.

“Understanding the crime around you better prepares you to prevent more crime from happening in the first place,” he said.

Pittsfield Township deputy director of public safety Gordy Schick said Pittsfield Township has been using the system since August and is regularly trying to make residents aware that it’s available.

He said it provides them with reliable and timely information.

“If (a resident) notices something suspicious in their neighborhood, then we want them to say ‘Oh I saw that on I better give the police a call,’” Schick said.

The site is run by the California-based Omega Group, which draws the information from CLEMIS, a local law enforcement database. So far, 17 agencies statewide use the site.

Schick said will soon roll out a “dashboard” that will provide real-time crime analysis to departments. That feature will be for internal use only.