Stats aim to connect police, public
A burglary on Turkey Hill Road. A drunk driver on Post Road East. A car broken into on Elm Street.
Residents can now look at all these reported crimes at www.crimereports.com, a free Web site that logs and maps the crime info of more than 600 municipalities, including Westport.
"Like with any other police department ... we're living in an information world," said Capt. Sam Arciola. "This is just making more information available to the public."
On the Web site, a map from Google displays the types and locations of each reported incident. The nature of the crime can be filtered into different categories, such as property crimes and assaults. The dates of the incidents can also be filtered.
While the information provides a snapshot of crime in Westport, it serves a purpose other than fulfilling curiosity of neighbors or potential home buyers. Through CrimeReports.com, police departments across the country are using the service to create a bridge between citizens and the police department in order to improve communication and help solve more crimes.
Westport is the latest of four municipalities in Connecticut to use the service, while Branford has been on CrimeReports.com for more than a year. The monthly fee of about $99 has been well worth it, according to Lt. Geoffrey Morgan, public information officer of the Branford Police Department.
"If you want transparency in your agency, you want the public to know what your crime is in any particular area in any particular time," Morgan said.
By allowing the public to actively see what is occurring around them and what police are up to, Morgan said services like CrimeReports.com help fulfill the belief of Sir Robert Peel, a 19th century prime minister who popularized the principle that "the police are the public, and the public are the police."
Morgan gave the example that now a resident could check to see where crimes in the neighborhood are taking place, and see if that coincided with any kids or other individuals who were in the area at a time. The hypothetical person, who he called an "active citizen," would no longer have to go to the department to check the police reports to see what has been going on.
"Many times, the people in the neighborhood -- we know that they're the best source of information," he said.
Darien started putting their information on Crime Reports in November. Lt. Geoffrey Morgan, public information officer of the Darien Police Department, said it's too early to tell how the public feels about the Web site, but he believes it's a valuable asset to the community.
"If there are car burglaries going on in my neighborhood, I want to know," Morgan said. "If it makes somebody lock their door or do something differently to prevent them from being a victim, then it's a win-win."
Morgan also sees it as a way to establish stronger connections with the public, who no longer see officers on regular foot patrols since that method of policing has been phased out throughout the state, often due to budgetary reasons.
"We do want to kind of put the name with the face a lot of times when we're talking about interaction with the public," Morgan said, adding, "What we're trying to prevent is people just looking at a police car and driving by with no interaction until an emergency occurs."
With the crimes mapped out, trends can also be tracked. High-crime areas and what time the incidents occur can be analyzed and acted upon by police forces. Statistics are also readily available, both for the public and the police to use.
Since Dec. 5, the most common crime in Westport has been theft, which accounted for 27.9 percent of all crimes, with 19 reported crimes. Quality of life issues, which include driving while intoxicated charges, accounted for 26.47 percent.
The Westport Police Department first heard about CrimeReports.com at a police seminar in the fall, and announced the service on Dec. 29.
"What's paramount here is that it's important we announce our partnership with the community. People who may not have been aware of what's going on in a particular neighborhood may have information," said Arciola.