Crime Incidents Now Available in Interactive Map
By Erika Jacobson(Created: Monday, August 4, 2008 4:02 PM EDT)
Residents wondering why they saw Loudoun County Sheriff’s deputies in their neighborhood one evening, or what the cars with loud sirens rushing down their street were doing can now look online for answers.
The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office announced today it had partnered with CrimeReports.com to place incidents of crime in an interactive, Google-style map for residents. The partnership, which has been in the works for several weeks, is an important tool for keeping residents informed about public safety issues and what is occurring in their neighborhoods, Sheriff Stephen O. Simpson said.
“As Loudoun County continues to grow, it becomes more and more difficult to reach out to every community,” Simpson said in a statement. “This system will help us keep the community better informed without affecting manpower. It is our opinion that a well-informed community is a safer community.
Every night, crime incident information, including the type of incident, the date and the block address, will be pulled from the sheriff’s office server and update on the CrimeReports Web site.
To use the Web site, residents are advised to use their mailing addresses, not their community names. Communities such as Broadlands and Brambleton are listed under Ashburn and Lansdowne is listed under Leesburg. Only the South Riding community can be looked up using the community name. The sheriff’s office, however, recommends using as specific information as possible to ensure that the site is most useful to residents.
“If you do too much of a wide stance [the site] could post things on top of each other,” sheriff’s office spokesperson Kraig Troxell said. “It is best to put in the full address.”
By default, the Web site only pulls up more serious crimes, such as theft, assault and homicide, but residents can look up less serious crimes including property damages and quality of life crimes by selecting them from the “crime types” drop-down menu. Troxell said the sheriff’s office is hoping other crimes will become default for Loudoun addresses.
“Often that’s what people are most interested in. They can find that information but they just need to be able to know how to find it,” he said.
Loudoun is the first Virginia jurisdiction to use CrimeReports, but several Maryland counties have employed the site and Washington, DC, has used the service for years, Troxell said.
Residents can search for incidents back to the beginning of the year, but Troxell reminded residents only incidents handled by the sheriff’s office are included in the site. Incidents investigated by local police departments, such as Middleburg, Leesburg, Purcellville, will not be listed.
Crimes as rape, sexual assault, domestic violence and crimes against children, also will not be listed on the Web site. Because of the specific nature of the locations on the site, it could identify a victim that would otherwise be anonymous. The sheriff’s office also often only releases the area where a sensitive crime occurred, making it difficult to locate it on a map.
“We want to make sure the information [on the site] is accurate,” Troxell said. Often victims will report a rape or molestation when they arrive at the hospital, and because they are either unwilling to name the location or cannot remember the exact location, the incident report lists the hospital’s address.
The Web site does, however, locate all registered sexual offenders living in a specific area and provides links to the Virginia Sex Offender Registry.
The site also has a traffic feature, where law enforcement can have accidents listed, but Troxell said the sheriff’s office has not decided whether it will activate that feature or not. The department is working on its own technology to notify residents of accident sites.
“We are developing a traffic Web site,” Troxell said. “You can use it from your home computer or your cell phone and see where an accident is located.”