A new online crime reporting service promises to put the pulse of neighborhood criminal activity at residents' fingertips.
The state has teamed up with the private Web site CrimeReports.com to provide a free-to-the-public online mapping service which will give residents a history of crimes over the last 30 days, from homicides and violent robberies to assaults, sex offenses and vehicle burglaries.
The online service makes Utah the first state in the nation to offer a state-sponsored service. CrimeReports.com has teamed up with individual cities, such as San Jose, as well as Washington D.C.
The company's system of using local crime data from law enforcement agencies with Google Maps software has left Utah law enforcement and lawmakers speechless.
"Wow," was the first response Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, expressed about the service. Oda is vice chair of the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Standing Committee.
Residents can input their address, and the Web site will pull up a map with the general locations of crimes in their area. Users can filter specific crimes or just view reported crimes within a week, 14 or 30 days. The site is also tied into the Utah Sex Offender Registry and shows the addresses of sex offenders, including a photo, physical description, name and date of birth of the offender.
Users can also create their own profiles and receive crime alerts in their neighborhood via e-mail, said Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff during a press conference at the Utah Capitol Wednesday.
Flanked by lawmakers and law enforcement representatives, Shurtleff said the new site will keep residents updated on criminal activity and hopefully involved with law enforcement to fight crime.
"Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to finding out if your neighborhood is safe," Shurtleff said. "CrimeReports.com will arm Utahns with the information they need to protect their families."
Shurtleff said the effort to make the service available was a bi-partisan effort among lawmakers and a coordinated effort among most of Utah's 140 law enforcement agencies.
"This Web site will give Utahns an important tool to learn if their neighborhood is safe," said House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy. "A better informed public will also help individual neighborhoods work with law enforcement to tackle crime problems."
As of Wednesday only a handful of agencies had their data working on the map, including South Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County. According to the AG's office, they anticipate that most of Utah's agencies will be giving 24-hour updates of crime reports to the site within a month but that it will be up to each agency. Agencies that have yet to participate include the state's largest metropolitan police department, Salt Lake, as well as Davis and Weber counties' largest cities Layton and Ogden.
The service does come with a cost. Curtis said the Utah Legislature last year approved a one-time allocation of $150,000 to fund a pilot program.
Greg Whisenant, president and CEO of Public Engines, the company that runs CrimeReports.com, estimated the cost to run the system is about $1,000 a year per department but as long as the Legislature continues to fund the project at $110,000 each year, it will be at no cost to police departments.
Whisenant said he created the mapping program on his own free time after his office building was burglarized. Since then, the site services cities in 14 states and D.C.Salt Lake County Sheriff James Winder said his office has struggled to pull together his department's crime data into something that was user-friendly. "They did it in two days," Winder said.