Area crimes reported online

Residents have access to maps, alerts, information on incidents

August 17, 2008|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Reporter

The Harford County Sheriff's Department is making crime reports available electronically to all residents with access to a computer. The service includes maps with neighborhood crime data, including location, time and a brief description.

Along with the maps, the On-line Crime Alerting and Mapping Service provides short incident reports. The data can automatically alert county residents to problem areas. The map includes any location within the boundaries of the sheriffs' service area, with details updated regularly.

The link to crimereports.com is on the sheriff's Web site at www.harfordsheriff.org.

It may actually heighten awareness and help prevent robberies, vandalism and petty crimes, officials said.

"People are calling us after seeing the site and asking for crime prevention tips," said Monica Worrell, spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Department. "This service is keeping citizens involved and could help us prevent another crime. The crime map has been a big help in raising awareness in the area. This addition to our Web site is really getting citizens involved."

Calls to the Sheriff's Department have increased since the site became public earlier this month, she said.

After spotting two thefts in his neighborhood on the site's map, one resident called to ask what steps to take to protect his property, she said.

"We told him what to look out for," Worrell said. "Those types of calls mean the site is working like it should."

The site's information and automated alerts are free to citizens.

Funded by a one-year grant from the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, the service also allows citizens to receive automatic daily, weekly or monthly e-mail alerts about crimes that have occurred in their neighborhoods or near their workplaces or schools.

Carl Kilhoffer said he has found the site easy to navigate. He has bookmarked the link so that it comes up every day on the computer at his Churchville home.

"It gives me alerts," he said. "I was really intrigued to see a robbery two-tenths of a mile from my home. The only thing is that I would like to see a bit more information, but I know there are issues with privacy and ongoing investigations."

He has also forwarded the site information to the human resources department at the printing plant he owns in Joppa.

"It is nice to have this right at my fingertips," Kilhoffer said. "With one click, I can look at what is happening within a 5-mile radius of home or office."

Roseanne Firorucci, president of the Fountain Glen Neighborhood Association, a community of more than 500 homes along Route 543, said she likes how current the data is and the immediate updates that are provided.

"All the information that our community needs is right here," she said. "This helps promote our vision to help people keep their eyes open for problems in our neighborhood."

The association recently spent $20,000 to upgrade its tot lots, only to have vandals slash several toddler swings, she said.

"If I can keep everybody informed through this service, it will really help," Firorucci said.

She plans to draft a letter with details of the site for all the residents and include the information in the association's fall newsletter.

"We really need this here," she said.

The state grant was made available to law enforcement agencies across the state and many have taken advantage of the service, Worrell said.

"We are testing this with a lot of other jurisdictions and will evaluate it after a year," she said. "For now, we see it as a big improvement over what the local media has been able to get out about crime in our area. It really is keeping citizens involved in fighting crime."

In a press release, Sheriff L. Jesse Bane said, "CrimeReports .com will prove particularly valuable to those in the community who want to stay informed about what is going on in their neighborhoods and empower citizens to work with the Sheriff's Department to address neighborhood crime issues."

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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