Minneapolis is making crime information more current and easy to access.
A new crime-tracking map that police are making available gives users daily updates and alerts on their computers or smartphones, a significant improvement from static maps plotting crime locations previously posted each week on the city website.
Police hope that in addition to giving people a more up-to-date way to check on crime in their neighborhoods, the new map could also help fight crime by making people more aware of what’s going on around them.
“We’re hoping this isn’t just an informational tool for the public, but that this helps us solve crime,” Cmdr. Scott Gerlicher said.
The map shows the date, time and location of each crime, and the information appears within a day of the event. The map also includes crime data going back three years and allows users to submit anonymous tips.
Hot spots and holes
Neighborhood crime watch advocate Shelley Leeson said she was happy that the new tool has become available.
“It’s about time they did SOMETHING that gives us crime info in a more timely manner,” she wrote in an e-mail.
Leeson said she would like to see the city put police reports online, too. That would add names, exact addresses and a brief description of crimes to the information available now.
Phillips neighborhood resident Karen Engelsen said she spent an hour Thursday perusing the new mapping website, available for all cities at www.raidsonline.com. She found hot spots of criminal activity and the times of day that crimes were most likely to occur, but she was also “pleasantly surprised” to find places where fewer crimes were taking place.
That’s typical of how people use the map, said Susan Smith, vice president of operations for Bair Analytics, the Colorado software company that built raidsonline and lets cities use it at no cost.
“They can look at the incidents that are happening in and around where they live, they work, they recreate or where their children live, work or play,” Smith said. The company has hundreds of police agencies feeding data into raidsonline, and it hopes to build a national crime-mapping tool.
“The idea is that we have this across all jurisdictions, one seamless map,” Smith said.
Raidsonline also has agreements with Lakeville, Eagan, Hopkins, Plymouth, Golden Valley, Richfield, Bloomington and a few other metro area departments.
But even in Minneapolis, there are some holes in the data.
Minneapolis resident Emilie Quast noted that the tool doesn’t include reports from the University of Minnesota police. The Minneapolis park police, Metro Transit police, Metropolitan Airports Commission Police Department and Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office are also excluded.
Still, Quast liked being able to look at crime reports from across the metro area. “It’s a step in the right direction for public information,” she said.
Raidsonline (the company says the name refers to Regional Analysis and Information Sharing) is one of several crime-mapping sites with national aspirations. Similar projects from Crimereports.com, Spotcrime.com and Crimemapping.com have their own police clients. Crimemapping.com, for example, has many northern Minnesota communities on its maps, including Duluth, Ely and Babbitt.
Free to any police agency that wants it, raidsonline has 25 police departments and sheriff’s offices in Minnesota using its software so far.
Bair makes money selling more sophisticated analytical software, but police are under no obligation to buy once they sign up, Smith said.
President and CEO Sean Bair founded the company in 1997. Smith said the company picked up 500 new agencies last year and expects to have 4,000 by the end of this year.