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NDSP offers online crime tracker

Sam Stryker | Monday, January 30, 2012

Notre Dame students now will be able to track campus crime patterns faster and more efficiently than ever before, using a digital mapping service that updates automatically.

Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) recently launched a subscription with CrimeReports, a mapping service that tracks crimes in a user-designated area.

NDSP Crime Prevention Officer Keri Kei Shibata said this new mapping service will be a valuable tool for members of the Notre Dame community.

“The more information people have, the more they are able to make good decisions about how to live safely and what kind of safeguards to take,” Shibata said. “I think it’s good for the public.”

NDSP Director Phil Johnson said the previous method of providing crime-tracking information students was done manually, and the information was released less often.

“We would send you a safety beat each month,” he said. “We plotted the crime data onto a map. Now this will happen on an automatic interface that is routinely available quickly.”

Shibata said one benefit of the program is students can register for free with the website and customize “neighborhoods” with geographic areas on campus they want to receive crime updates about.

“What a ‘neighborhood’ does is it lets me see alerts about the crimes that I am interested in,” she said. “So if I want to only want to know about thefts in my residence hall, I can set it for the area around my residence hall and it will send me an email whenever a theft in my residence hall gets posted.”

In addition to recognizing possible particular areas on campus where certain crimes such as theft may occur often, Johnson said he hopes NDSP may receive more tips as students become more aware of criminal activity on campus.

“You may see something on here that you have information about and you contact us because you now know you have information about a reported crime,” he said.

Shibata said the program’s launch has been in the works for a year. She said information from NDSP’s reporting system is pulled directly by CrimeReports daily at midnight. This information is then plotted using Google Maps.

“I think it is more user-friendly,” she said. “Rather than going to a line of text, it is more visual.”

Shibata said an additional benefit of the program is it releases information in a timely, accurate manner.

“We may sometimes receive more information that changes the classification of a crime, and that will update on a map,” she said.

Johnson said CrimeReports, which provides crime-plotting information for the United States and internationally, is also in the process of being launched by the South Bend Police Department. He said this would be a valuable information source for those who live off campus.

“We think an informed campus constituency is safer,” Johnson said. “In particular for our South Bend faculty, staff, and students, if you hear a rumor about something happening in your neighborhood, you can look at the map and see nothing happened.”

Rather than replacing any notification methods, Johnson said he views CrimeReports as a supplementary source of safety information. He said NDSP will continue to send out serious crime alerts as mandated by federal law through emergency messaging and ND Alert, the student notification system.

“This is just one more tool in our communications resources to help us keep the community informed of what is happening and to help the community be aware of crimes so they can take steps to protect themselves,” Johnson said.