Reynoldsburg News

O'Neill: Software would help police report, track crime

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Police Chief James O'Neill asked Reynoldsburg City Council on March 11 to consider the purchase of a crime-mapping and analytics tool.

According to O'Neill, the police department participated in two webinar sessions to learn about the CrimeReports.com and the RAIDSOnline.com products, both of which provide publicly available online crime-mapping tools, along with various analytic tools available to law enforcement.

"This all started at a Franklin County police chiefs' meeting where we talked about RAIDSOnline.com and CrimeReports.com and so I thought this was something we should look into," O'Neill said.

He said an email from RAIDSOnline.com indicated that "all sorts of things' are available free of charge, including the crime mapping, "but none of the other analytic components are; those come at a significant cost."

O'Neill said that after talking with officials in Dublin, a current user of CrimeReports.com, and doing a comparison of costs, he recommends purchasing a five-year subscription to the service for a total cost of $28,703.

"Part of the service they provide will let council members and city residents, who have questions about crime trends and trouble areas here, search locations on the map by date and even time to get a picture of when and where crimes are happening," O'Neill said.

"Then, the further you get into the product is when you get to the analysis software, which will give the department the ability to focus in and see a real-time snapshot of where and when we need to have officers available.

"We hear all the time about certain areas and we know the hot spots, but we hear less about places like Old Reynoldsburg, which might be because people aren't as vocal there," he added.

Councilmen Scott Barrett and Cornelius McGrady III questioned whether the money would be better spent providing an additional police officer.

"We have a request for additional police staff, so however we can come up with that money is important," Barrett said.

O'Neill explained that the funds to purchase this software would come from a special revenue account of forfeiture funds that can only be used for "a very narrow" set of uses -- in this case, community policing tools, such as this application.

"You can't use this for budget items like officer salary," O'Neill said.

McGrady reiterated his desire for additional officers.

"No question, if we can, we'll increase. We're eight to 10 officers below what we should be," O'Neill said. "But one or two now would go a long way to get us through the tough times."

Councilman Mel Clemens said he supports both an additional officer and the CrimeReports.com software as an effective community outreach tool.

"I think we're sometimes criticized for not getting info out to the public," he said. "This would be a good way to do it, to get people to know where crime really is and would enlighten the public.

"Then when we ask for money for things like additional officers, we don't have to go door-to-door explaining the issue."

Council is scheduled to vote on appropriations amendments, including this software purchase, at its March 25 meeting.

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