Things just aren’t the way they used to be. It’s a phrase some of the old-timers love to toss around. It’s true. As time passes, things will inevitably change. The places we call home can go through growth spurts, seeing new developments bring an increase of homeowners to the area and changing or shifting the demographic of the neighborhood completely. What might have been a great community area for the elderly might become the hot new area for young couples to move into. The point is that our community spaces aren’t these little holdouts of existence forever. When they change, a piece of the area changes with it. Do you know your neighborhood as well as you think you do?
crimemapping.com, a website that is “developed by TriTech Software Systems to help law enforcement agencies throughout North America provide the public with valuable information about recent crime activity in their neighborhood.” How does it work? Well, we gave it a try to see what information was available. For example, I live in the International District. Searching my address, I saw my neighborhood lit up like a Christmas tree. I know that, a while back, some people in my neighborhood had an entire mariachi band performing for eight hours straight in their yard. I didn’t see an issue with it; it was nice to have live music to listen to, but I can see that within the last week, those same neighbors had received a noise complaint for “disturbing the peace” with a loud party. Maybe one of my other neighbors just doesn’t like trumpets.
But that isn’t all crimemapping shows on the page—though knowing where the big parties are is definitely useful if you’re looking to make new friends. Let’s say you are planning to move to a new neighborhood and you’re afraid someone might give your car the good old “New Mexican Valet Service,” if you know what I mean. You can view all the auto thefts in an area for up to four weeks prior, or longer if you feel like punching in a custom date range. Huzzah! Now you know if a garage is a luxury or a necessity if you are looking for a home in a certain area.
Now, all this info is useful on it’s own; but wait, there’s more. Let’s say you have a suspicion that physical abuse may be happening next door. You hear some things from the kitchen window, and you aren’t entirely sure how calm of a fight your neighbors might be having. Well, the best step is to check out the address and see if there is any prior history. For example, if that household has had—like one in my neighborhood—eight prior calls related to aggravated assault, then odds are good you should probably make a phone call.
One location within my neighborhood has multiple incidents of theft, embezzlement and larceny. But not all of us are so lucky to live so close to our banks! Hey, I’ll be here all week. The point is, with this information, we can arm ourselves with knowledge to understand the deeper inner workings of our neighborhoods. With it, we are more in control of what is happening around us and can react in real time. Strangely enough, in some ways, crimemapping.com can be part of the conversation about defunding the police.
The entire point of the Defund the Police movement is that police departments are doing a lot of work that doesn’t fall within what their job duties should be. Mental health calls and nonviolent crimes shouldn’t require someone armed with a gun to handle. On their own site, crimemapping.com says, “Our goal is to assist police departments in reducing crime through a better-informed citizenry. Creating more self-reliance among community members is a great benefit to community-oriented policing efforts everywhere and has been proven effective in combating crime.” Which is kind of the point of the movement. If a social worker is better suited to handle someone experiencing a mental health crisis and can quickly deescalate a situation, rather than an officer who is trained to protect themselves and others from threats, we can reduce potentially fatal interactions from ever happening.
There’s a long way to go before we have a more cohesive situation in place that will keep communities securely safe. Things really aren’t the way they used to be, and the unfortunate reality is that APD is still stretched thin right now. That means longer wait times and unsatisfying resolutions can happen if police are being called to handle things that aren’t necessary for them to resolve. Knowing our neighbors, our communities and our lifelines that can handle problems means we can “flatten the curve” in a new way.