ELKHART — A nearly countywide crime mapping system will allow locals to see what crimes have occurred near their home, work or other locations and see graphs and charts about local crime.
Elkhart County Prosecuting Attorney Curtis Hill Jr. unveiled a new online crime mapping resource, free for anyone to use, at a press conference Thursday.
The new system will include crime information from the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department and the police agencies of Bristol, Goshen, Middlebury, Millersburg, Nappanee and Wakarusa.
“It’s important, it’s imperative that members of the community understand what’s going on from a public safety standpoint so that they can understand, protect themselves, take precaution, but also so that they can put the appropriate pressure, if you will, on those of us who are responsible for public safety,” Hill said.
In the mapping system, users can type in addresses to check out what crime has occurred around those locations over certain amounts of time. Clicking on icons on the map reveals further information, including which police agency supplied the information and a way to submit an anonymous tip about the crime. People can also sign up for email alerts about crimes that happen in particular locations.
Density maps can show where the highest concentrations of crime have occurred, while other analytic tools show what times and which days of the week the most crimes are being reported,
The crime maps will not only let the public see what’s going on in their neighborhoods and submit tips, it will help police officers more easily look for patterns in local crime and even better anticipate where crime will occur.
“I think it’s something the public thinks we’ve been doing all along,” Hill said, “but it’s something that technology is allowing us to do more rapidly, more efficiently at this point.” Until the introduction of the mapping system, Hill said it was very “painstaking and time consuming” to look for those patterns and trends in that way.
Hill said he has been envisioning a cooperative crime mapping system like this for several years and that agencies began really working on making it happen about a year ago.
The Elkhart County Prosecuting Attorney’s office is working with RAIDS Online from Bair Analytics to produce the crime maps and analytics, which Hill said is free to the county and to the public.
“The thing it will cost is the time and effort it is to upload the information to be able to provide access, and that’s no cost at all,” he said. “It’s a huge benefit for no additional tax dollars.”
Hill said he was not aware of any other counties in Indiana using a system like this, though he said the city of Richmond does.
The Elkhart Police Department is the one local police agency not participating.
Public Information Officer Lt. Laura Koch of the Elkhart Police Department said that Elkhart has its own crime analysis program that police use internally, so chose not to participate in the prosecutor’s office system. If people want to learn more about crime in their area, they can contact Koch, she said.
Current data on the site goes back to October, according to Heather Norman, criminal intelligence analyst for the prosecutor’s office. She said that information is uploaded to the crime mapping software between 8:30 and 9 a.m. on weekdays, though they’re working on automating the process so that it happens earlier in the day and every day of the week. Addresses and some information are also scrambled in some cases to protect victims.
The public can access the crime mapping system by going to www.ElkhartCountyProsecutor.com, then clicking on “Links” and selecting “Elkhart County Regional Crime Mapping.”