BPD to roll out online crime-map system

Years after the Reporter first called for its implementation- and hours after a mayoral candidate called for stepping up the use of the Internet in the war on crime-the Boston Police Department has finally partnered with a national web site to provide timely, map-based information about crime incidents.

The Boston Globe on Wednesday reported that Commissioner Edward Davis told the newspaper that a web site with information on Boston crime incidents would go live this week. The Globe said that aides to Davis said that the plan for the web site had been in the works since last year.

On Wednesday, Boston Police spokesperson Elaine Driscoll told the Reporter that the national website- crimereports.com- was already live with the Boston data. Driscoll said that the new system "will be rolled out in community meetings which begin next week."

Driscoll said that the CrimeReports website was piloting the Boston Police data at no charge to the department. The BPD uploads its most recent data to the website, which then uses its software to map and store the information. The website services 479 law enforcement agenices in 44 states and two provinces in Canada. The site allows users to produce reports based on addresses and includes e-mail alert systems that can be managed by users.

Earlier this year, Reporter’s website- dotnews.com- became the first news site in the city to make map-based crime data available to the public. The Reporter uses daily police log data -supplied to the newspaper by the Boston Police- to feed a database which the newspaper created uniquely for its free online service. The Reporter’s crime map section is limited to Areas B-2, B-3 and C-11, the three police districts that cover Dorchester and Mattapan.

City Councillor-at-Large Michael Flaherty, who is one of three men challenging Mayor Tom Menino in this fall’s municipal election, had included a call for such a citywide system in a memorandum on crime issued by his campaign earlier this week.

"In order to effectively empower our community members, we need to equip them with knowledge by giving them access to real-time crime data and trends occurring in our neighborhoods," Flaherty wrote, making note of other cities- including Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., that use such an online system already. "The mapping of crime data by neighborhood gives the public a comprehensive scope of the crime problems and hotspots and holds public safety personnel accountable for developing a plan that addresses these trends and achieves a higher level of results."

Flaherty was not the first to call for the online mapping service. In an editorial published in October 2005, the Dorchester Reporter called on Davis’s predecessor - Kathleen O’Toole- to replicate public online mapping instruments like those then in use in Chicago.

"In addition to making documents available at district stations, the BPD should follow the lead of other large cities - like Chicago- and create an interactive website where redacted, timely police log information can be posted for public consumption," the Reporter editors wrote. "By centralizing the release of certain public information through an effective citywide website, O'Toole can help ease the tremendous demands on her staff."

Flaherty said this week that he had neither seen nor heard of the new website and questioned why its release came so quickly after his call for its implementation.

"Why has it taken the administration so long?" Flaherty asked.

Staff Reporter Mike Deehan contributed to this article.

BPD to roll out online crime-map system