Smyrna police introduce online crime mapping feature

Smyrna Police recently launched an online interactive crime map with nearly real time statistics at www.crimemapping.com. Submitted photo/Smyrna Police

SMYRNA — Seeing is apparently believing for some would-be Smyrna residents with crime concerns.

Home seekers’ questions about safety in the rapidly-expanding northern Kent County community can now be answered with online specifics.

Smyrna Police recently added an online crime mapping feature that documents reports entered into the department’s computer-based system. Crimes are portrayed with category icons placed on a town map at the scene of an incident and can be customized to a certain time frame to indicate trends.

“Smyrna is one of the fastest growing towns in the region,” Smyrna Police spokesman Cpl. Brian Donner said this week. “As such, I field numerous calls and messages from prospective residents about crime in this community that they are considering living in.

“Rather than take my word for it, they can visually see the crime in various snapshots (this week, last four weeks, last six months etc.) and make their own determination.”

The information is available online at www.crimemapping.com/map/agency/494. The crime mapping site may also be accessed with a search for Smyrna by zip code (19977) or agency (Smyrna PD).

“While we already have all of the data included in this crime map available to us, the map provides an easy to see visual example of it,” Cpl. Donner said. “Rather then spend time mining our own crime data, we can quickly load the map in times of need.”

Only crime reports entered into the Law Enforcement Information Sharing Service are displayed on the map.

“A lot of our calls for service are not necessarily related to actual crimes. (i.e. domestic disputes without a crime, public assists, civil disputes, traffic violations without associated crimes, suspicious persons etc.),” Cpl. Donner said. “None of these will display as the reports associated with them have no actual crime listed.”

The crime map is updated by the host company crimemapping.com.

“They have a software program which consistently updates the map based upon approved crime reports generated in our computer-based police reporting system,” Cpl. Donner said.

The police spokesman described the yearly fee associated with the software as “fairly inexpensive, in the neighborhood of a few hundred dollars a year.”

The program’s addition served a dual purpose “as a part of our effort to be as transparent as possible to the citizens we serve,” Cpl. Donner said. “We also added this as part of our commitment to evidence-based policing.”

Smyrna Police first engaged in the program this spring “and rolled it out to the public as soon as we felt it was ready,” Cpl. Donner said.

The new online venue replaces a similar program Smyrna Police used, but required the department to enter its own data,

“This took up a lot of man hours and research,” Chief Norman Wood said. “This crime mapping system allows us to focus our energy and resources on actual policing. Our officers are already electronically recording all crime reports and this system merely displays those reports once they are approved by supervisors.”

Looking at crime

According to Cpl. Donner, “The biggest value to the public is they get an inside, nearly real time look at crime in their community.”
And so far, he said, “Early reactions to the system have been great.

“I think that people really enjoy being able to tangibly see crimes on the map, rather than relying on written data. A lot of people are visual learners so this type of system appeals to that.

“Furthermore, in an increasingly digital world this system allows people another way to answer their questions via the internet with real reliable data.”

All reports submitted into LEISS will be shown publicly on the crime map.

“We do not have any say over exclusions,” Cpl. Donner said.” If a report is written and approved, the system will display it. From a simple criminal mischief up to and including a homicide, all crimes will display.

“There is no editing whatsoever by our agency.”

Other Delaware law enforcement agencies using the system include Delaware State Police, Dover Police, Wilmington Police and the University of Delaware Police.

Police encouraged citizen feedback about the system through the department’s social media a accounts, non-emergency number at 653-9217 or message through the website at www.smyrnapolice.org.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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