Interactive mapping tool does not provide users with all possible information regarding high profile crimes

ScreenShot5-1-thumbnailSome high-profile crimes are excluded from the Calgary Crime Map, a website maintained by the Calgary Police Service (CPS). The map’s aim is to help keep residents aware of what is happening in their neighbourhoods.

The Calgary Crime Map website is an online tool where people can select from a list of 12 crimes, ranging from theft to homicide, a time frame — from last week, last month, last three months or last six months — and choose a particular area of the city to gauge crime in the area.

From there, a person can see what, and when, particular crimes have occurred in an area.

However, the map does not include high-profile crimes such as domestic violence, kidnapping, and the manufacturing, production, and trafficking of illicit drugs..

When asked if these high-profile crimes will be on the list, Nimira Kurji, from the communication and technology section of the CPS, said privacy concerns are a constraint.

“Privacy legislation prevents the release of certain types of information. Therefore privacy and investigative reasons determine what details can be posted on each type of incident. This site is meant to educate the public about what to watch out for in terms of crime trends, not as a public warning system.”

Kurji has not yet responded to further requests for comment.

Sarah Burton, from Alberta’s Civil Liberties Research Centre, explained that domestic violence would not be listed because it does not directly relate to public safety and it would cause privacy concerns for the victims if their addresses were listed.

However, the landing page of the Crime Map, where the user is asked to agree or disagree with the CPS’ guidelines, states crimes are indicated by the block in which they occurred and not by specific addresses.

“I have no idea why kidnapping or abduction wouldn’t be included in the crime map,” Burton added. “At first blush, this appears to be an oversight.”

However, the map is also seen as a useful tool in the community.

Stephanie Sokolowski, coordinator for Building Safe Communities, said the crime map is a great device to help communities understand what is happening around them and develop crime prevention plans.

“For example, if a community notices a spike in theft from cars, they may be able to put a reminder article in their community newsletter on their website for residents to remove all valuables from your vehicle and lock it up when you park it in front of your house,” she said.ScreenShot2-1-articleThe Crime Map shows that the Richmond area has had 13 violations within the last three months.

Screenshot by Melissa Kadey

Gerry Baxter, executive director of the Calgary Residential Rental Association, said he tells his clients about the Crime Map and discusses it with associates when looking at properties.

He said it is important to have a website like this because, “From a property owner’s point of view, whether you’re a landlord or you own your own property, it is really nice to know what is happening in your area, what type of crime there is, and how close it is to you.”

Baxter also agreed regular updates should be a priority for the CPS.

“It needs to be current. I don’t know if it’s a real-time map but if it’s not then the question is, how often is it updated? If it’s updated monthly that could be good, because the police usually provide monthly stats on communities.”

The Crime Map has most of its information updated every 24 to 72 hours.

The CPS has yet to follow up on further requests for comments.

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