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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Partnership between Nashua PD and Telegraph yields online interactive crime map

NASHUA – A commitment to better communication by Nashua’s new police chief is opening up much more police data to public view in the form of a new interactive crime map, created through a partnership between the Police Department and The Telegraph.

The department and the newspaper have been working with CrimeMapping.com to develop the map, which plots all the crimes reported to the department on an interactive map.

“I think it’s important that people know what’s going on in their community and their neighborhood,” Police Chief John Seusing said. “We’re hoping to see people have an even more watchful eye and report stuff to us.”

Most police activity and reports of crime are public information.

Based on that premise, the map uses public information about reported crimes and displays information, which is updated daily from the Police Department’s computers.

The software takes incident reports filed by Nashua officers and plots them onto a map of the city, with specific icons for 15 types of crime, including assaults, vandalism, car theft, burglary and more.

When clicked on, each of the icons offers specifics about the report, including case number, date and time of the report, the approximate address and description of the crime.

The data can be sliced and diced a dozen different ways. Users can search by date range, type of crime, address, radius around a specific address or any combination of those parameters.

For example, if you lived at 229 Main St., you could find out that 31 crimes were reported within a mile of your address in the past week (March 8-14). If that seems like a lot, that’s because 229 Main is the address of City Hall and the downtown is the most dense part of the city. A rural neighborhood wouldn’t typically register the same number of crimes.

So what exactly were those crimes?

Two assaults.

Two burglaries.

One identity fraud.

One automobile theft.

Two robberies.

Three sex assaults.

Nine thefts by unauthorized taking.

Seven criminal mischiefs (vandalism).

Four thefts from a car.

The software, all of which is browser-based, can create detailed reports of any search, as well as trend reports that show crime type summaries as a pie chart and what crimes are being committed by day of the week.

Nashua is the third New Hampshire community to partner with the company, joining Manchester and Rochester. Several Massachusetts police department’s also use the service, including Lowell, Haverhill, Dedham and Framingham. More than 270 other agencies nationwide use CrimeMapping.com, according to the site.

The company culls a police department’s records system once a day and displays the data for a rolling 180-day period.

All of the data the company uses to create the map has always been public, but not as readily accessible as it is now, Seusing said.

“It’s always been there. This is just a tool that makes it really available,” he said. “Nothing has changed. You’re just more informed.”

James Harrity, a sales manager with The Omega Group, which owns CrimeMapping.com, said the maps are designed to be another tool for departments to develop a tighter bond with residents.

“Generally what it’s doing is promoting that community-oriented policing model,” he said. “If you get the community involved, you’re more efficient at solving crime. It’s kind of a community service.”

In Nashua, the map was created at no cost to the city or the taxpayers. The Telegraph agreed to pay the Omega Group to develop and maintain the crime map.

The map can be found online at www.nashuatelegraph.com/crime. An identical version soon will be available at the Police Department’s website, www.nashuapd.com.

Harrity said Nashua is the first case he knows of that the local newspaper was a partner in the project.

Seusing said increasing the department’s interaction and communication with city residents is one of the key department-wide goals he established for this year and will include more than just the crime map.

It also includes creating Facebook and Twitter accounts for the department and using them to communicate with residents. Seusing also is looking into mobile alert applications to be able to push emergency alerts to cellphone users who sign up for the free service.

“People want to know, to be informed and this makes it pretty easy for them,” Seusing said. “I think this crime mapping will bring it to the next level.”

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com. Also follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).