Peel police introduce crime mapping
Map it out
Break-ins, vandalism, thefts from vehicles— Brampton and Mississauga residents can now use an interactive crime map to find out exactly what kind of crime is happening on their street and in their neighbourhood. Peel Regional Police launched their very own crime mapping system today and it can be seen by clicking here. The map allows residents to search by street name, police division, municipal ward or type of crime to find out what has been happening in any part of Brampton or Mississauga for the past 30 days, or a month at a time dating back to January 1 of this year. What pops up from a search has been described as a “snapshot” of crime. It’s the old-fashion pushpin map come to life on a computer screen, and it’s completely interactive and updated daily. It even offers a satellite view to give a more realistic feel. The privacy of victims is protected, so only a street name, date and a three or four word description— “break & enter- houses”, for example— is displayed. No other details, such as items stolen, whether anyone was injured, or if arrests were made, are included. It’s the balance, according to Peel Sgt. Brian Wintermute, between the public’s right to know and the privacy of victims. Wintermute said the information will increase community awareness, encourage feedback and involve residents. They can act on the information by calling Peel police Crime Prevention or Brampton Safe City to find out if there are crime prevention measures they can take, it will make them more aware and alert to suspicious activity in their neighbourhoods, and it might also debunk a few myths about areas rumoured to be higher crime neighbourhoods. “Some people might think there’s a lot of crime in their neighbourhood, and they might find out that’s not the case,” Wintermute said. The map is just another tool in communicating with residents and being transparent, Wintermute said. It isn’t about pointing out high or low crime areas, and he cautions residents, “don’t get lost in the data. It’s so easy to do.” “This will help us get citizens more involved, and help us prevent these crimes,” he said, noting, if someone sees there have been some thefts from vehicles in their neighbourhood, it might encourage them to lock their cars and make sure they don’t leave valuables inside. “This is one more tool in their toolkit, to be aware of these things and do more,” he said. Residents can click a link on the map to Peel Crime Stoppers if they have any information that could help solve a crime. The map offers information residents, students, the media and others often ask for, Wintermute said. “We do get a number of requests for crime data,” he said. Police release annual, official statistics, but the map offers a visual, which can be more meaningful than numbers on a page, he said. It is similar to the maps used by some other police agencies— York Regional Police have a crime map— except those maps have been created by purchasing off-the-shelf software. Peel Regional Police created their own unique mapping system by developing their own software. The result is a much cheaper system to operate, according to Wintermute. It is estimated it will cost Peel $450 a month to run the system, compared to off-the-shelf software that costs as much as $18,000 to buy and more than $1,000 a month to operate. Developed after consultation with Brampton Safe City, Neighbourhood Watch and Mississauga Crime Prevention, the map will include the location of homicides, robberies (with firearms, other weapons and purse snatchings with violence), muggings, residential and business break-ins, auto thefts, thefts from autos, and mischief to property. The break-ins are broken down into type: house, apartment, store, gas station, office, factory, construction site, school, jeweler, pharmacy or restaurant, while auto thefts are broken down into car, truck or motorcycle, and thefts are either over $5,000 or under $5,000. Police officials can add other types of crimes to the list, and it is all done using Peel police data. Property crimes are the focus, because that is the information residents ask for most often, according to Wintermute. Because it was all done in-house, the map and the information it provides can be tweaked. Police are looking for feedback. Suggestions made by the local safety groups prior to launch were very helpful and made the final product even better, Wintermute said. Down the road, they will look at creating an APP for the map, too, he said.