When my husband and I moved back to our home town after living in California for eight years, we started looking for our first house. I will admit that after being married for 12 years I was more then ready to move out of apartments. Our little town that we had grown up in was not so little anymore, and there were many areas that I was unfamiliar with. I had a laundry list of things I wanted in the house, but just as important to me was the neighborhood. I wanted to know just what sort of environment we were moving into.
As part of my searching, I included looking at crime statistics. Our local police department had crime mapping as part of their website. One of the neighborhoods we were originally looking at had several sex offenders listed as living there so we decided not to look at houses listed there. Since 2004, our police department has upgraded their crime mapping software and are now using a site called CrimeReports. This site works with over 700 agencies across North America, and is the largest online resource for crime data. The network offers software tools for law enforcement and shares current neighborhood crime data with the public using Google Maps. Community members can access the integrated crime map and receive email crime alerts for free as the service is paid for by local law enforcement groups.
Keeping an eye on crime is as simple as entering your home address and telling it which crimes you want to track. You can look at crimes from the past three days or enter a date range to get a more complete picture of the neighborhood. In addition, they offer a free iphone app that allows you to access the information on the fly.
Another site that gives you detailed information on sex offenders is the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website that is under the Department of Justice. This site allows you to search by zip code and then provides the names, photos, physical description, convictin information, and the offender’s address. The only caveat for the offender database is that it is on the criminal to register when they move and change addresses so it is a tool but no guarantee that there isn’t an offender in your neighborhood.
While these sites are important tools when locating a new neighborhood or helping to keep your current one safe, they are no substitute for neighborhood watch group, neighbors that know each other, and citizens that are aware of their surroundings. Our neighborhood doesn’t show any registered offenders and little crime, but there was one man who recently moved away that just gave off a creepy vibe. Several of my neighbors had the same feeling. As my mother said, if you get a weird feeling about a person or a situation, listen to it.