Schaumburg police have stepped up efforts to keep residents and businesses informed of crimes in the village through a website that maps the location, time and type of every single offense.
"It was something we'd been talking about for years, getting information out to the public and how best to get out crime stat information," Schaumburg police Sgt. John Nebl said.
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The decision to join Crimemapping.com this summer came out of the recommendations made by Chicago-based law enforcement consultant group Hillard Heintze in its commissioned report on ways to improve the Schaumburg Police Department.
Though police departments from around the country and state have joined the San Diego-based Omega Group's crime mapping service, Schaumburg is the first Northwest suburb to have done so.
Nebl said the service is as useful in providing information to residents as it is to quashing misinformation and rumor.
"A resident sees a police car down the street and wonders what happened," Nebl said. "This is an easy way to find out."
The site marks each location of an offense with an icon showing one of 15 different categories of crime, including arson, burglary, sex crime, homicide, vandalism and illegal use of a weapon.
The default setting when first clicking onto Schaumburg will show all the reported crimes during the past week. Clicking each icon will give the block the crime took place on and the time it was reported.
The site's settings can be changed to show only particular crimes or a specific range of dates within the previous six months. Visitors to the site can sign up to receive email alerts of offenses within whatever distance range they choose of a particular address like their home, business or school.
Nebl said the fighting of misinformation comes into play when people hear either false rumors or multiple reports of the same event. They may have heard of five burglaries in their neighborhood, but the website might confirm it was only one.
While perhaps not providing the amount of detail as a newspaper police blotter on a particular crime, the website is dedicated to being comprehensive in the number of offenses and not limited by the space of a newspaper or time of a news broadcast, Nebl said.
The site is updated every 24 hours, but only confirmed crimes will be listed. Just because squad cars stop at an address doesn't mean that a crime has occurred, Nebl noted.
The use of crimemapping.com is only one way Schaumburg police have increased communications with the public this year, Nebl said. The department sends out about 50 Facebook and Twitter posts a month -- even more when addressing issues such as the ongoing search for missing resident Beata Candre.
One unintended consequence of this is that some residents have reached the false conclusion that crime is going up in Schaumburg, Nebl said.
"It's going down, but we're doing a much better job reporting it to the public," he added.
Representatives of The Omega Group could not be reached for comment Thursday.