Law enforcement officials in Gloucester County have taken the first step in empowering residents to know what crimes are happening in their communities.
The Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office has begun posting monthly crime call reports for each of the county’s 22 police agencies online.
"We hope by providing this information, we’re going to raise public awareness and enlist the support of residents on crime prevention strategies that make their communities safer," Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton told NBC10.com Thursday.
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Eleven types of calls -- assault, burglary, theft, criminal mischief, domestic disturbances, driving while intoxicated, harassment, juvenile complaints, narcotics, stolen vehicles and terroristic threats -- are listed. Although there are nearly 30 types of calls police answer, Dalton says officials felt those eleven would be of most interest to residents and empower them to act on trends happening in their communities.
"For example, if you see a bunch of burglaries or car thefts, things of that nature, there might be some proactive steps that residents can do to make their cars and their homes safer," he said.
One category noticeably missing from the list is homicide. Dalton says the county experiences so few, only three over the past three months, that listing them would not allow residents act proactively.
The types of calls municipalities get vary wildly from one town to another. Washington Township, the county’s largest municipality, responded to 19 assault complaints and 57 thefts in August. By comparison, nearby Harrison Township had three assault calls and one theft for the same month.
"I think it all depends on whether [the community] is a more suburban type area compared to a rural-type area and as the size of the towns increase, you’re going to see more of the types of calls as far as the assaults and thefts and things like that," Dalton said.
Gloucester is the first county in South Jersey to offer these online monthly statistics, but they provide only a township level snapshot. Across the river in Philadelphia, police release weekly crime statistics and plot crimes on a map for citizens to see what’s happening in and around their homes. Dalton says mapping crime for the public is something officials would like to do, but that the current record management system doesn’t allow for it.
"Maybe down the road, if we can do it in such a way to ensure privacy of individuals, we may provide additional information, but this we believe is a good first step," he said.
Officials have been tweaking the data’s presentation for the past three months and just launched in September. New data, from the previous month, is posted on the county’s Community Partnership website on the first week of every month.