By Joel Hall
In an effort to better arm its citizens against crime, the City of Riverdale has joined the National Crime Map.
By way of the Internet, or an iPhone application, residents will be able to view real-time data on criminal activity happening within the jurisdiction of the Riverdale Police Department.
This month, the city joined more than 700 municipal, county and university police departments in the U.S. and Canada sharing crime information through the National Crime Map, at www.crimereports.com. According to Riverdale Police Chief Samuel Patterson, the city is trying out the program on a 30-day trial period, with the hopes of using it permanently.
"We think it's important that our citizens have real-time information relative to criminal activity that is happening within our jurisdiction," Patterson said. "It helps them to protect themselves; it helps them be aware of where crime is occurring; it helps them shore up their own crime-prevention efforts, [and] it helps us compare ourselves to other jurisdictions.
"I know there are chiefs who want to hold back information, because they don't want the people to know how bad the crime is," he continued. "I think the opposite. I think information is power. The more informed community you have, the more willing they are to cooperate with us. If we are holding back ... I feel like they would be reluctant."
Ryan Lufkin, director of marking for CrimeReports, which hosts the National Crime Map, said that on a nightly basis, CrimeReports will extract reports of criminal activity from the police department's records management system. The information will then be classified, time stamped, and plotted on a map using the Google Maps Internet application.
"By default, the information that is shown is [for]: homicide, breaking and entering, robbery, theft of vehicle, theft from vehicle, sexual offenses, and assault," Lufkin said. "All the information is rounded up to the block level to protect the privacy of the victim. The goal is that citizens know what is going on around them, and can take steps to protect themselves.
"Usually, crime trends happen in clusters," he continued. "It [the National Crime Map] allows citizens to say, "I'm going to be a little more vigilant about the cars in my neighborhood or suspicious persons. They [the police] are able to turn all of their citizens into eyes and ears in the community and engage them to a level that they have never done before. We also have had a lot of smaller agencies, who have been able to solve crime patterns, and adjust their policing to deal with those crimes."
Other Georgia police jurisdictions participating in the National Crime Map include: Atlanta, Decatur, Roswell, Athens-Clarke County, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Georgia, according to the CrimeReports web site.
Patterson said that for several years, the police department had been handing manually-plotted crime maps to citizens at Neighborhood Watch Meetings. He said the National Crime Map provides more instantaneous information, allowing police and citizens to "stay ahead of the curve" with "intelligence-led policing."
"We used to give out crime maps to people at neighborhood watch meetings, but that information was about two-weeks old," Patterson said. "The horse had left the barn, and we were closing the barn door. Some of this was predicated on technology, but now we have the technology. Data-sharing is the wave of the future. We can put cops on the dots and help stop crime before it even occurs."
Patterson said participating in the National Crime Map will cost the city $99 per month.
On the web: www.crimereports.com