Thanks to the Brentwood Police Department’s new online Crime Mapping feature, residents can log on and get that sort of information and a lot more, all sorted by category of crime, neighborhood and date, and all for free.
“The more informed community members are, the more they can help us fix problems in their neighborhoods,” said police Chief Mark Evenson. “The old days of plotting maps with pins is not very effective.”
By logging on to the department’s page on the city’s Web site, www.ci.brentwood.ca.us/department/pd/index.cfm, and clicking the Crime Mapping link, residents can get an overview of all the crime in the city as a whole, or narrow their search to about a half-mile radius. They can view any or all of two dozen types of crime (only incidents for which a formal report was generated are included) that occurred from a week ago to the entire previous year. The maps not only help keep residents informed; they provide a valuable law enforcement tool.
“It helps identify trends to help allocate investigation, surveillance or patrol resources,” said Community Services Officer Michele Keady, who maintains the map. “It allows us to make better decisions with the resources we have.”
Incidents on the map are color-coded by type of incident. Click on a circle using the Identify function offered at the top of the map, and the date, time, type of incident and the block in which it occurred are displayed next to the dot. (Note: if more than one incident has occurred at the same location, you will need to look at the left side of the map under Incident Details to get the information.)
Additional details are available to officers (for more information, or for details of calls that did not result in a formal report, residents can call the PD at 925-634-6911), and can be viewed on the computer in their patrol cars. That information includes full incident reports and photos of suspects, giving officers on the street the information they need to more effectively do their job. Gone are the days when police could rely only on what they remembered or heard about a situation.
“We should be policing on good, hard, proven facts,” said Evenson. “If not, we’re throwing darts in the dark.”
The new computer capabilities at the PD also include enhanced crime-analysis software that helps summarize cases and identify trends, and allows officers to write reports online from their patrol cars. Identified as a need several years ago, the system was made a top priority when Evenson came on board three years ago. He credits the City Council with supporting the expenditure even as budgets grew leaner, and retired BART Police captain – and former Brentwood city councilman – Wade Gomes with doing the research, acquisition and installation of the system.
“The community wants to know what’s going on in their neighborhood, and it’s important for us to be transparent, satisfy their hunger for information,” Evenson said. “It might even make them more adept at recognizing problems; make them more alert.”