Chicago lets citizens map crime

By sharing criminal information with its residents online, the Chicago Police Department hopes to take a bite out of crime.

Chicago's Citizen ICAM, or Information Collection for Automated Mapping system, enables residents to see the number of reported criminal activities in and around their neighborhoods. It is an outgrowth of a computer system launched in 1993 that was used only by police.

The Web-based system launched Sept. 27 plots reported crimes and arrests over a 90-day period, said Sgt. Jonathan Lewin, a department spokesman. Reported crimes are not immediately charted but are delayed one week so that investigators can properly classify cases.

The interactive system enables residents to search using a specific address, intersecting streets or by a police beat. Users can search for all crimes or specific types of crime.

The data will show the time, day and block number of the crime, but will not give a specific address. Users can also choose a search radius of up to 1 mile and can view reported crimes within a 14-day frame, Lewin said. The department has received about 250,000 hits in five days following the launch.

Although Sacramento, Calif., and San Diego have similar systems, Lewin said he believed Chicago is the largest metropolitan city to share such information with its residents via the Web. He said future enhancements would include providing citizens with tools to analyze criminal activities during a given time or area.

By making the information available to its 3 million residents on the Web, Lewin said the 13,500-member department hopes to strengthen ties and engage more residents in community monitoring, reporting and solving crimes. He said he hoped the information would also dispel any misconceptions about what's occurring in neighborhoods.

Such information had been available to residents, but they had to attend meetings with police officers or request paper documents. Lewin said the department had planned for several years to install information kiosks to make information directly available to citizens but decided to use the Internet as that technology became more widely used.

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