How the 'safest' city does it

The high-tech biz and crime-mapping strategy in San Jose aids authorities in maintaining its 'Safest Big City' moniker

     San Jose PD expressed an early interest in, allowing department officials to become one of 30 Foundation Partners nationwide that provide guidance and input into the direction of the service. Upcoming new features driven by the Foundation Partners include:

  • Analytics and dashboards for public use;
  • Video integration, allowing law enforcement to attach digital video to specific crimes when it is available;
  • SMS alerting, allowing the San Jose PD to send alerts to specific neighborhoods if specifically requested by the department; and
  • Neighborhood watch tools, where residents of specific neighborhoods can contribute information.

     Whisenant says the service is affordable to all, ($199 per month for cities with populations over 50,000 and $99 for others) and is currently working with San Jose and surrounding jurisdictions to broaden the reporting to the entire region.

     "This service levels the playing field for all agencies," Whisenant says. "Everyone can have access to the information they need instantly without the cost of installing, and maintaining hardware and software systems."

     Crime Reports is currently used by 150 agencies, and Whisenant estimates that number will rise to 1,000 by the end of 2008.

Outsourcing sensitive crime data?

     Deciding whether or not to outsource an agency's sensitive data is always a major concern when choosing vendors and solutions. The knee-jerk reaction is to say, "NO, we'll keep our data in house and control it."

     Since Davis was looking for a solution to make certain information available to the public and keep other information on sensitive investigations in-house, Crime Reports offered a simple answer.

     Davis explains the logic behind the service.

     "They only have the information we send them," he says. "If anyone hacked into their system, the only information they would get is information we wanted to be public anyway. There is no way to go back and query our internal servers by hacking into Crime Reports' computers."

     Whisenant concurs. "The way the service is designed, we work with an agency to evaluate the information they want to make public. In this case, 911 calls involving only those relating to a crime report (excluding sensitive information like investigative leads, hoaxes and requests for information) are entered into the data stream we receive."

     So, if a burglary is reported at 123 Main Street, a resident logging onto the crime map would see how many burglaries occurred on the 100 block of Main Street, but the actual address would not be posted. If someone wanted to look up all crimes in his or her local area, one can do that by putting in a measured radius. If he or she wanted to see where all the car thefts occurred in the entire city, that information can be singled out.

Free community alerting

     Beyond active research by community members, Crime Reports also offers an alerting feature at no cost to subscribers. This can be used in two unique ways: first to alert residents to a specific crime in their area in real time, (example: bank robbery at 456 Broadway, suspects at large) and second, to alert subscribers of a dangerous or hazardous situation (example: water main break on Front Street, excessive flooding).

     Davis encourages all residents to take advantage of this unique service. "If you are concerned at all about where crime is occurring in your neighborhood, this will let you know in a timely manner."

The future of real-time crime mapping

     Davis has more plans for the technology. "We have the information at our fingertips now. The next step is getting it to officers in the field in real time, and transmitting video in real time to assist in the apprehension of suspects before they get too far from the crime scene."

     With the implementation of TicketWorks electronic ticketing solution from New Jersey-based 3i Infotech, traffic stops and field reports can be entered instantly and the information made available as soon as San Jose PD desires.

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