After his GPS was stolen from his car and seeing neighbors around him become victims of the same crime, Colin Drane decided to start looking into the crime around his Baltimore neighborhood. He wanted a visual way to look at where crime was occurring in his community, so he took the data available from his local police station and mapped it on a Google map.
SpotCrime.com was created as a way to help people see exactly what crimes were happening in their community. Drane eventually expanded beyond Baltimore and now covers the entirety of the United States into Canada, parts of Mexico and other countries around the world.
While the main goal of SpotCrime is to make a profit, Drane also aims to encourage police stations to make crime data more accessible to the public. He believes this is an important step in helping community members make informed decisions when choosing where to live and work.
According to Drane, the City of Eugene has made crime data easily accessible, which helps him collect the data and put it on his nationwide map. The University of Oregon Police Department, however, has not. Campus police have a daily crime log both in the station and on its website, available in PDF form, located in the “Crime Info” tab.
Drane doesn’t think this is good enough.
“Using a PDF to make data available is very old school,” Drane said. “A better approach would be making the data available in a table format to geolocate the incidents.”
This process sounds easy enough, but UOPD communications director Kelly McIver said they don’t have the human power to establish this sort of system. According to McIver, UOPD is looking into getting new software that has the ability to map crime, but it needs to be something the university can afford and have the demand to warrant the expense.
Rebecca Litwiller, a UO sophomore double majoring in psychology and Spanish, has filed crime reports with UOPD regarding a stolen bike and her car being broken into. Litwiller would like data to be more accessible to students so people know what is happening around campus.
“It would be nice if it were easier for students to see where crimes are happening,” Litwiller said. “I would like that.”
While visual mapping of crime is a potentially useful concept, it isn’t in high demand just yet. Sophomore Chris Boyd, a non-traditional student majoring in material and product studies, thinks UOPD investing time and money into software for visual mapping is a waste.
“It may be good for some people,” Boyd said. “But I think for most people it isn’t really worth it.”