Dan Barkin

Crime map gives us a leg up

Staff WriterJune 21, 2008 

In the past month, there have been nearly 300 reports to the Raleigh police of vandalism. About 200 burglaries have been reported.

These aren't typically the sort of crimes that get covered by metropolitan newspapers. But they are the kinds of crimes that are the most common, and that drive people up the wall every day. Anyone who has had their car broken into knows what I mean.

One way to keep from becoming a crime victim is to be alert. But that's easier said than done. How do you know when vandals are targeting your neighborhood, or when car thieves have decided that your street is easy pickings?

One way is to use our crime mapping database. It's not the complete answer. But it is a useful tool.

We get crime report data from the Raleigh and Cary police departments, and you can plug in your address and see what's happening. The software lets you draw a box around an area and look at all the crimes that have been reported.

So, for example, if you use it and discover there has been a rash of car thefts nearby, you can take some steps to protect your property.

Lately, we've done a better job of promoting this database. Since the end of May, I've mentioned it more than a half dozen times on Page 2A of The N&O, in our new Online Now feature, which promotes stuff on newsobserver.com. This has evidently helped, because the number of page views of the crime map has jumped significantly.

You can get to it several ways. You can go to newsobserver.com/ news, and you'll see on the right side of the page an icon of the crime map and a link. You can also go to newsobserver.com/news/ crime_safety. There is a big bar at the top that will link you to it. You can also go to know.triangle.com/factfinder.

One of our folks, database guru David Raynor, is working with other police departments to try to get their crime reports into the database. The way I see it, this is a really good way to enlist citizens in crime-fighting.

We got an e-mail message the other day from Dan Carter, a Raleigh resident who is using the crime map.

"Most of the smaller police calls are not in the news," he wrote, "and at least in my neighborhood, 'word' does not get out fast. We usually hear about thefts from cars parked in driveways weeks later from neighbors. I live on a busy corner on Anderson Drive and I really get frustrated hearing about vandalism, etc., nearby days or weeks later.

"A car was broken into one night two houses from me, and we did not know about it until three days later ... it would be great to know what to look out for sooner.

"Now that I am recently retired, I can be more watchful of suspicious activity around here. With your wonderful report, I can daily go to it and see what is happening. It is easy to scan down the list of crime reports all over Raleigh. We have many relatives and friends around Raleigh and now can alert them to crime activity in their neighborhoods. ... I only wish more people knew of this great community service you now offer, and it is so very easy to pull up and view."

I didn't quote from this to pat ourselves on the back (OK, a little), but more to show how one guy has found it useful, and why.

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dan.barkin@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4562

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