Monday, April 5, 2010

Real Time Dunwoody Crime Stats Hit The Web

The City of Dunwoody didn't exist a year and a half ago therefore when laying out a data infrastructure we were at an advantage of not having years of data tied up in legacy systems. We decided early on to invest in best of breed interrelated systems whereby the various computer systems would talk to one another and share all related data. For example, we assured that the police citations were electronic, the information could be uploaded wirelessly from the cars, input into the court management software and then tied the court payments into the city's financial system. Though these records management software systems were expensive on the front end, the amount of manpower savings over time will prove that these were wise purchases.

Today the Dunwoody Police Department implemented the latest records management system to come on line, the Police-to-Citizen (P2C) software package now pushes the last seven days of police reports onto the web for all to see. The OSSI P2C Application is a browser-based solution that provides a convenient solution for citizens to perform simple searches and to map the results.  On many of the event searches, residents can easily click the document view icon listed on the right of the results and the complete incident report is downloaded in a pdf document.

In playing with the software, I like what I see but there are a number of improvements that might be able to be made. First the software package doesn't like any browser software except Microsoft Internet Explorer, so I guess you just need to know that on the front end. Second the Daily Bulletin should have an option for daily e-mail delivery, since I know a number of people who would be signing up for that if it was offered. Third, the software allows the printing of incident reports straight from the web but for traffic accident reports it asks that the report be requested from City Hall after paying a $5 processing fee. Knowing that this fee covers the processing cost, I would like to see the city to explore an on-line payment for the accident reports and therefore allow direct access via the web. Finally, my last question regarding the data is why was the access limited to only seven days? Was this a function of the software or was it a city decision programed into the software?

In this day of high tech computer databases and instant information; how much do we really want to know about our neighbors and those who live around us?  How much is needed for public safety and how much is just voyeuristic curiosity?   I guess I enjoy having my DeKalb Mugs emailed to me daily based on the offenders home address and then I'm very capable of checking the status of all criminal and civil cases on the DeKalb OJS (Online Judicial System) when ever I feel I have the need to do so.  The real question is what do the residents of the City of Dunwoody want published on this database and for how long should it be available?  When my wife, or your son little Johnny gets a speeding ticket, should it still be able to be found on our public access website a month or two later after the matter has been settled?

I don't know the answer, but I will be asking my wife in the morning.

1 comment:

Mark said...

I'm very glad to see this development coming to fruition after the problems with getting data to .

I exclusively use Linux and was concerned when you said it only seems to work with IE. I found, after a few hiccups, that I was able to get at data reliably using Firefox over my OS. I t probably isn't as pretty, but I was able to select days and view their data. I concur that email delivery would be a nice option. A map graphing the activity would be nice too, but having the data up to date is satisfying.

As for satisfying privacy concerns, I would set my measure for access to be comparable to what I am legally entitled to as public record should I visit the police station, city hall, other government entity that maintains public records. That they are available online only makes them more easily & widely available, and that more folk are likely to take the time to peruse them than were they required to make a trip and a specific request.