Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

Community crime watch goes high-tech

By J.T. BOHLAND

Capital News Service

LANSING — McGruff the cartoon anti-crime dog has gone high-tech with the arrival of an interactive neighborhood watch program called Crimedar.

So far, the new technology is in use in Williamston, Bloomfield Township, Troy and Fraser

Crimedar is an interactive online neighborhood watch that allows law enforcement officers to map out suspicious activity. The program enables community members to learn about and report any crimes in their area, such as theft, burglary, robbery, assault, arson, vandalism, gunfire or threatening behavior.

“Crimedar allows us to communicate with the public quickly and efficiently, instead of them having to wait for the police report in the weekly paper,” said Williamston Police Chief Bob Young. “This is the news that people want to know and need to know.”

When Young became chief on June 1, 2010, he said his mission was not only to bring a police department website to the city east of Lansing, but also to integrate Crimedar into the department’s everyday work.

Young discovered the program while attending an FBI National Academy Association meeting where Troy’s police chief, Gary Mayer, had a layout of Crimedar in his office. Inspired by Mayer, Young brought the idea to Williamston and launched it last December on his department’s website.

Peter Collins and Ryan Shelby of Royal Oak founded Crimedar.

“We both had a little bit of crime in our neighborhood and we wondered why we didn’t hear about it for so long until after the fact,” said Collins, the Crimedar vice president. “It was a good week before we heard anything and we thought there has to be a better way.

“We just started spit-balling and there you go,” he said.

Collins and Shelby began developing the program in April 2010, and after fine-tuning the software for about a year, were ready to use it in Michigan.

Troy was the first community to show interest and incorporate Crimedar into its system, followed by Fraser.

Williamston’s Young said, “This is simple technology that allows people to zoom in on locations of crimes and allows us to upload and control information. Community members are able to stay well-informed and active, and as a result their communication with us improves.”

With his administrative assistant, Vonnie Green, Young reviews police reports every 24 hours and determines whether a crime is newsworthy or sensitive enough to post online.

Green said, “It’s a great tool that gives people an idea of what’s going on and it’s easy to use.”

“Each report has a 14-day lifespan, then disappears so Crimedar stays current,” said Young.

As for the future, Collins said the company plans to expand in Michigan, nationally and possibly beyond.

“This is not going to be Williamston, Troy and that’s the end of it. I mean we could, if we wanted to theoretically set up in London tomorrow. We could be anywhere in the world and put this program up,” Collins said.

© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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