New tool maps crime in community
Thanks to a new online service, residents in Farmington and Rosemount can track the date, location and type of criminal activity happening in their neighborhoods.
Launched earlier this month, RaidsOnline will be available to Dakota County residents in the near future. Farmington’s police department has already launched its participation in the project, and Rosemount’s police department is not far behind.
RaidsOnline is an online crime map. It allows users to zoom in on specific neighborhoods or entire communities, see if there has been any criminal activity in the defined areas, and if so, what types of crime occurred.
“The purpose for this map is to provide almost real-time information to our residents,” said Farmington administrative sergeant Jim Constantineau.
By simply entering an address or a zip code, users are taken to the area they are interested in searching. By checking the “Buffer” box, they can identify a perimeter from 500 feet to five miles around the specified location.
Under an “Event” link, users can select the criminal activity they would like to research — homicide, robbery, assault, burglary, theft, fraud and so on. Users can check as many topics as they wish. The user can also identify a date range for his or her search.
Each crime is identified on the map by different icon. The symbols pop up on the area maps to show where the crimes occurred.
Information on RaidsOnline is all public, but it is also basic information — the type of crime reported, the responding agency, time and date, and street location. Users can access that information by clicking on the map’s icons. However, the information does not include specific street addresses.
And not every type of crime will be listed by local law enforcement. Constantineau said FPD will not post incidents like sex crimes, juvenile matters and runaways, death investigations or suicides, out of respect for the victims and their families. Rosemount will adopt a similar policy, chief Eric Werner said.
“That part of the process will be based on data privacy laws and things of sensitive nature. If you have victims of a criminal sexual assault, you have to be very sensitive to that. There’s a balance to consider,” Werner said.
Eight Dakota County law enforcement agencies are participating in RaidsOnline, Werner said, which gives area police an advantage they didn’t necessarily have before. The agencies already have a joint records management system, and RaidsOnline takes that one step further.
While the agencies have always had the ability to connect through telephone conversations, investigators can now look past their community’s borders and see what types of crimes are happening in neighboring cities.
For instance, Countryview Estates is located just over the Farmington/Lakeville border on Pilot Knob Road. When crimes occur in Farmington, the same type of activity can be happening just a few feet away, but FPD wouldn’t necessarily have seen the reports taken by Lakeville.
“If we start having thefts on the north end of town, we can zoom out and see if there are similar thefts happening in Countryview,” Constantineau said.
There are a few more functions of RaidsOnline that local police are enthusiastic about, too.
Residents can go in and sign up for emailed crime alerts. After entering their address and an email address, they can select the types of crime notifications they would like to receive, the distance to their own properties, and how often they would like to receive the notices.
In addition, residents can submit online tips about activity that is posted in their own community. Under the investigating agency’s name, there is a link to submit an anonymous tip for users.
“It’s certainly not going to replace a 911 call, but for some people (online communication) is the preferred method of communicating,” Constantineau said.
Werner sees RaidsOnline as a service to both police and the public.
“We’re hoping it will better educate our citizens. There’s a prevention side that can come out of it, and maybe this will prompt people to call if they see something going on,” Werner said.
The city of Farmington has posted a link to RaidsOnline on the city’s website, www.ci.farmington.mn.us. It can be found under the Departments/Police Department link. It is called “Crime Incident Map.”
Werner expects to have Rosemount’s link live in the near future. It will be available on the city of Rosemount’s website, www.ci.rosemount.mn.us.
Residents can also access RaidsOnline by going to www.raidsonline.com.