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New HPD site lets users track neighborhood crime

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 01:02 p.m. HST, Dec 03, 2010


A new online tool makes it easy for people to see when, where and what kind of property crimes are being reported in their neighborhoods on Oahu.

The Honolulu Police Department introduced its Crime Mapping pilot project yesterday.

Anyone with access to the Internet can go to HPD's Crime Mapping page, type in a street address and immediately see a map showing burglaries, thefts, car thefts, car break-ins and vandalism cases within a 2-mile radius and the last 90 days.

Police Chief Louis Kealoha said making the data available to the public "makes us more effective because we're able to identify certain patterns and changing safety issues that occur in the neighborhoods."

The site is supposed to be updated daily.

The new tool also allows people to sign up for e-mails alerting them whenever any of the crimes are reported in their neighborhoods.

For several years the HPD website has allowed people to find crime statistics broken down by HPD-designated districts, sectors and beats. But that program makes it difficult to find information and to figure out what users are looking at.

The new site is easier to use, more intuitive and precise.

Assistant Police Chief Dave Kajihiro of the Support Services Bureau also pointed out that the Crime Mapping program is interactive. A user can therefore, for instance, manipulate the data to compare neighborhoods not just in Hawaii, but throughout the country. The old sectors and beats breakdown, which will continue to be online, is "static" and cannot be easily dissected.

The program uses information collected digitally through HPD's computer-aided dispatch system, which records all 911 or other police calls for service where officers are dispatched. The symbols are often plotted based on where a call came from, not necessarily where a crime may have occurred.

"Probably the most important thing you can look at ... are these (map symbols) that have a question mark," Kajihiro said. "Any time there's a question mark on it with a plus sign, that means more than one crime occurred in a particular block or location."

For privacy reasons, Crime Mapping will not give you the specific address of a call, but it will narrow it down to a numbered block and tell you how far it is from a location you have identified, Kajihiro said.

Crimemapping.com is the brainchild of a San Diego-based company known as the Omega Group which, according to its website, is "dedicated to enriching the quality of life in all communities by providing solutions for law enforcement, public safety and education agencies."

HPD is being charged $100 a month for the pilot project. A slew of police departments throughout the country already have Crime Mapping, including police forces as large as Dallas and San Francisco.

Some of those municipalities' sites list many more categories of crimes available, including assaults and robberies, as well as weapon, drug and alcohol violations.

Kajihiro said the crimes now spotlighted have traditionally been the ones that have been followed by neighborhood boards and community watch groups.

"For now those are the crimes we are plotting," he said. "We can look at it in the future, though -- plot all crimes."

"This is a pilot project," Kealoha said. "It will keep on evolving." He pointed out that there is also a space on the website for the public to offer suggestions on the program.

Aiea Neighborhood Board Chairman Bill Clark, a former HPD deputy police chief, said he is surprised more different types of calls are not available.

Clark noted, however, that HPD might have some reluctance to put up data on sensitive crimes such as sex assaults. He said he has mixed feelings himself, noting that the public might be able to figure out the identity not just of a suspect, but of a victim on some smaller blocks.

Clark said he experienced some kinks trying to access the site with an older-model Apple computer, which required him to download a PC-based program.

But Clark said that overall, he is impressed with the new technology and what it means to the public.

"People can now look and see what's happening and ask questions, and that's important," he said. "It makes people aware of what's going on in their community and hopefully start talking."

From there, he said, they can start questioning authorities.

Brian Benton, president of the Honolulu Board of Realtors and the Prudential Locations Diamond Head office, said the new tool is "kind of neat" and something the community, including homebuyers, will find useful.

Realtors should encourage their clients to go to the website "to gain access to whatever information is available to them," he said.

He added, "If a client is concerned about what type of property crimes are going on in a particular neighborhood, then I think they should by all means have access to all of the information that's possible."

Statistics might even appear that dispel a notion that crime is occurring in a certain neighborhood, he said.






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