The Norristown Police Department recently introduced a new crime fighting tool that allows the public to track criminal activity neighborhood by neighborhood. CrimeMapping.com went live in the municipality Aug. 5. CrimeMapping.com is an interactive website allowing users to see where and what type of crimes have been committed in a particular area within a designated time frame and updates users via email when crimes are perpetrated close to a given address.
Police will utilize the crime mapping data to assess criminal trends in real time, thus enhancing preparedness and response.
Norristown police Chief Mark Talbot described crime mapping as a visual method of depicting crimes that allows the department to make correlations and relationships between events that will make for more effective policing.
“So if you’re looking at a suspected drug house and you start to see theft from auto and you start to see burglary and you start to see some other types of crime that typically revolve around drug dealing, you know how to attack those problems,” Talbot explained.
“It allows us to dig a little bit deeper into what’s going on and respond in a more effective way.”
Talbot heralded the technological advances that made crime mapping possible but cautioned that the technology is only beneficial if the police and the public utilize it effectively.
“I’m a big believer in technology-driven strategies. Technology is never going to make or break a police department. But technology can accelerate the gains we’re already making. So the innovation is not necessarily the crime mapping, but how the crime mapping supports our operation,” Talbot said.
“I’m confident enough to say we’re going to be responding effectively to any patterns or concentrations that the communities are going to come across. So it allows us to focus our resources where they need to be and to reduce crime in the way that makes the most sense,” said Talbot.
After being briefed on the project by Talbot, Municipal Administrator Crandall Jones expressed his approval and echoed the chiefs belief in the potential efficacy of the program.
“I think it’s a good thing from a transparency standpoint. I support it,” said Jones, who stressed the importance of transparency in all aspects of governance.
“The chief thought it was important for folks to be able to tap in and then see exactly what’s going on in the neighborhoods from the perspective that if you’re more informed, you’re better prepared to deal with any situations that are going on and better prepared to assist the police.”
According to a statement released by Norristown police and CrimeMapping. com, “The process is also intended to increase the public’s trust in cooperation with the police, as well as the efficiency and effectiveness of police operations by putting officers and resources where criminal activity is occurring.”
“Crime tends to concentrate in certain parts of the community,” said Talbot. “And this gives the people a chance to look and see what’s actually occurring out there and gives them the opportunity to help us out.
“Maybe they see something that’s a little bit out of the ordinary and wouldn’t think much of it, but when they’re taking a look on crime mapping they see there’s some sort of crime that puts the information that they have in some context that’s useful for us. They can pick up the phone and let us know what’s happening.
The police department en- courages residents to sign up for crime mapping for free at www.crimemapping.com/ map//pa/norristown and to report tips anonymously by emailing NPDTips@norristown.org or calling 610-278TIPS.
This screenshot shows Norristown Police Department’s crime map on CrimeMapping.com.