Lake Norman & Mooresville

Crime mapping website tracks local crimes

It just got easier for Cornelius residents to remain in the know about crime in the neighborhood.

By going to CrimeMapping.com, residents can see what crimes are committed when and where in the town.

Cornelius officials partnered with the site, which is run by the San Diego-based Omega Group, last summer. For $17,000 a year, the company takes crime data from Cornelius police and organizes and analyzes that data.

"We are very aggressive in applying advanced technology to assist in crime prevention," said Cornelius Mayor Jeff Tarte.

The department sends only public information to CrimeMapping.com, so no identifying information or juvenile names are included, said Police Chief Bence Hoyle.

CrimeMapping.com provides an analysis based on the emergency call volume and crime trends around town. Following that analysis, the police department evaluates where officers should be assigned, said Hoyle.

Since the Cornelius Police Department uses the system for internal purposes, the Omega Group provides a publicly viewable version of the crime mapping system for free, said Milan Mueller, Omega Group president.

"The public sees a simplified and reduced version of what the police department gets," he said. "Our focus is to serve law enforcement and help them identify trends and hot spots for crime. ... Some of those details would be overwhelming to the public."

The public version of Cornelius's CrimeMapping system went live a couple of weeks ago, said Hoyle. Residents can see where 15 types of crimes happened in the town, including assault, DWI and arson. And when residents scroll over an icon for a crime type, they'll find out when the incident occurred and at what address.

"It's good for everyone in terms of the notification aspect," said Tarte. "It allows residents to go online and see what's going on and where and have their radar up a little bit."

CrimeMapping.com is not new to North Carolina. Goldsboro, High Point and the N.C. State University campus also use the system to help both police officers and the public track crime.

CrimeMapping.com's direct competitor, CrimeReports.com, also serves several communities in the area, including Monroe.

Last spring, federal courts viewed a case regarding the data that's given to such crime tracking companies.

Public Engines, a Utah-based company that created CrimeReports.com, sued another company for using the data on its website and presenting it on an independent website, www.SpotCrime.com.

Some say the lawsuit, at its core, highlights the question of who owns public crime data.

Mueller said he did not want to comment on the case until a verdict is reached but said CrimeMapping.com does not claim ownership of the data police departments give them.

"If the department wants to take down the site, they can do that," he said. "We consider that the information belongs to the police department."

Since crime data is public information, Hoyle said, no one owns it and CrimeMapping.com does not have exclusive use of the data that the police departments provide.

Furthermore, CrimeMapping.com does not claim ownership of the archives of Cornelius crime data, said Mueller. All that information is purged after 90 days, and it's up to the individual police department to keep its own records, he said.

"We simply use CrimeMapping.com as a tool to be more transparent," said Hoyle.

Hoyle said the department plans to add more capability to their partnership in order to analyze the predictability of crimes.

For now, the department is using the service to track large crime trends and to help inform the public.

"I foresee this being a very valuable tool for community watch programs," he said.

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