North Charleston residents now can track what crimes are occurring in their city and where with a few clicks of a computer mouse.
Police have teamed up with Colorado-based Bair Software to offer online mapping of the city's crimes, allowing residents to keep abreast of offenses in their neighborhoods on a daily basis, Police Chief Jon Zumalt said.
Zumalt said the goal is to increase awareness and vigilance in the community. Residents also can sign up on the website to receive e-mail alerts about crimes happening in their areas.
"We're trying to do everything we can to get the community engaged and keeping an eye on their neighborhoods," he said. "This raises their awareness and gets them looking out for possible future crimes."
Best of all, the service isn't costing the city a dime. Bair offers the mapping service free to law enforcement agencies in an effort to improve public safety and draw attention to its other crime analysis products, said Thad Quimby, Bair's director of sales and marketing.
North Charleston is the first city in South Carolina to take advantage of the service, but others are welcome, Quimby said.
Zumalt had long been interested in getting North Charleston's crime information on the web after seeing other cities across the country offer the service. Money, however, just wasn't available.
Then Capt. Karen Cordray learned of Bair's free Regional Analysis & Information Data Sharing (RAIDS Online) website and set to work.
Police update the mapping information every weekday, listing homicides, aggravated assaults, arsons, burglaries, larcenies, sexual assaults, robberies, motor vehicle thefts and other crimes involving drugs and weapons, Cordray said.
Clicking on the various dots on the map provides basic information on the crimes that occurred there. The maps take viewers right down to the street level, though the last two digits of addresses and the exact location of sexual assaults are omitted to protect privacy, she said.
Residents need not register to use the site, but can sign up for e-mail alerts,
The information also will help improve officer awareness and accountability, Zumalt said. Before going to work, officers can check to see what has happened in their areas while they were off, he said.
Police eventually want to add more information to the site. Zumalt wants to map the geographical boundaries of the department's bureaus and zones, and post photos of the captains and neighborhood resource officers so residents can become more familiar with who is serving their area.
City Councilman Ed Astle is thrilled. For some time, he has been e-mailing crime bulletins to constituents, and that's proven quite popular. People want to know what going on, he said.
"I think this is great," he said. "It makes people more observant. An informed citizenry is a safe citizenry."