The Saint Albert Gazette had a story this weekend where they covered a new web based crime map for the public in Saint Albert, Alberta. Quite a number of law enforcement agencies are publishing publicly accessible crime maps nowadays. What I thought was interesting in this story is this bit:
Dosko said he hopes residents will use the tool to be able to learn more about what is happening near them.
“It is more than just about the numbers. It is a tool that is going to help prevent crime in our community.”
The idea of a public crime map as part of a crime prevention strategy is one that I think has real merit. It's unfortunate that sometimes city governments are afraid to publish such maps as they fear people will get the wrong idea about their community such as, there is crime "all over the entire city", or that a certain neighborhood is "worse" that others.
The problem with that kind of thinking is that keeping the public ignorant about what is going on in their neighborhoods is not the way to motivate them towards helping with crime prevention efforts. If you are going to have an effective crime prevention effort, you have to partner with the community you serve. A partnership involves two way communication and is hampered when the truth about crime in the community is obfuscated.
Sure, if your community has never seen a map of crime in the community before, they might be a bit shocked to learn what is really going on. However, we have to recognize that the truth is important even if it makes us a bit uncomfortable. It is so important because only then can we become effective partners in reducing crime.
What are you doing at your agency to inform your community about the crime problems they face?