What crime is happening in your Kirkland neighborhood?
By MATT PHELPS
Kirkland Reporter Regional Assistant Editor
June 27, 2012 · 2:18 PM
The Kirkland Police Department has gone through a lot of changes during the past year to keep up with demands of a growing city.
The building of a Public Safety Building in the Totem Lake neighborhood and the addition of more officers are just some of the tools that help the department better serve the community.
But there is one tool that is a big help to any police department – informed and alert citizens.
“A priority goal of the Kirkland Police Department is to work with the community to reduce crime through a better informed citizenry,” said KPD Capt. Bill Hamilton. “Reducing the potential for victimization through timely information sharing is a great benefit to our community-oriented policing efforts and has been proven effective in combating crime in other communities.”
The department is now using the national service CrimeMapping.com, which is free to the public. It is a resource where citizens can sign up to see where and what crimes have taken place within the last 180 days.
“If a neighborhood quickly learns of recent car prowls or burglaries in the area, they will be able to take certain precautions to reduce the likelihood of becoming victimized themselves,” said Hamilton. “They are truly the eyes and ears of their police department.”
Kirkland residents can sign up on the site, enter a home, business or school address and see what has taken place. Residents can search various parameters, including date range, crime type or distance from a specific address. Data is transferred from approved police case reports to the system every Tuesday through Friday.
Crime types displayed include arson, assault, burglary, public disturbance, robbery, motor vehicle theft, along with other crimes, and are depicted by different icons on the map. Less serious crimes such as general traffic stops are not shown.
“This system is offered nationwide and each state may categorize a crime differently, such as our disorderly conduct may be another state’s public disturbance,” said Hamilton. “Because of this, the system displays 16 different general crime categories and we have linked our particular corresponding crime types to each category.”
The icons will expand to show general details of the incident but the names of those involved are not shown. Users can also subscribe to receive free automatic customized crime alerts via e-mail for their neighborhood and can also access crime prevention tips through the site.
The program may be eye-opening for some residents as to how many criminal incidents there are in the city, as most go unseen by the general public.
“People may be a bit surprised at first to how busy their police actually are and to see crime icons depicted on a community map,” said Hamilton. “But I don’t see this as a negative thing, I actually think it’s the right thing to do.”
According to the Crime Mapping system, Kirkland, a city of 81,000 people, had 29 crimes committed from June 14-20. In comparison, the City of Snohomish, with 9,000 people, had 62 crimes and Bellevue, population 122,000, had 61 crimes committed during the same time period.
“The Kirkland community is safe, this empowerment through information will help us keep it that way,” said Hamilton.
The service was acquired through a grant from the Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority and is only offered so far in 11 other cities in Washington state and with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department, although similar services are available nationwide. The KPD took on the service thanks to its concerns about the theft of personal property in the city.
“We want to be proactive, and when we examined auto thefts and thefts of property from within autos, we realized that many times the car keys and other expensive personal property were left in the vehicles, very often in plain view,” said Hamilton. “We also found that people were sometimes reluctant to call the police when something seemed a bit odd or suspicious for fear of wasting our time or being wrong.”
Hamilton said that the KPD wants people to trust their instincts when it comes to crimes and not be afraid to call police.
“We would rather they be wrong, than not call at all,” said Hamilton. “We knew that we could reduce victimization and increase two-way communication by making people more aware that such crimes were occurring, but we needed to do it in a timely manner.”
Kirkland Police officers will also be using the program to help them more easily identify crime trends in their assigned patrol districts.
Residents can find a five minute crime mapping tutorial video on the city website.
“We hope that the use of crimemapping.com will raise awareness, reduce victimization and allow the community to help us catch the bad guys,” said Hamilton. “We enjoy that very much.”
Contact Kirkland Reporter Regional Assistant Editor Matt Phelps at email@example.com or 425-822-9166 ext. 5052.