If you live in Niles, there is an easier way to keep track of crime in your city.
You can do it with the click of a mouse, or using your iPad or smartphone.
You can even interact with investigators and submit anonymous tips to police.
More and more police departments are going to this "real time" crime reporting.
Once a crime report is taken, within hours, it is entered into a crime mapping system that residents can access to find out if crime is near their doorstep.
The system is called "CrimeReports".
CrimeReports allows residents to go online and check criminal activity in their neighborhood, as well as throughout the entire city.
Residents can track certain types of crimes.
Chief Jim Millin of the Niles Police Department says, “There's a box they can go into, and they can check all the available crimes that they want to see, and it also allows them to see sex offenders that are registered in the city.”
By clicking on any of the icons on the map, a box will pop up, listing the crime, date, time, and approximate location.
Chief Millin says you can track crimes up to sixty days in the past.
There is also a component that allows residents to submit anonymous tips.
“When a resident goes to one of the icons on a map, they hover on that icon, it gives them information about the crime, and then in the bottom right hand corner, it says to submit a tip online, and then they click on that and submit a tip directly about that crime. If they just have information about any crime, like narcotic activity in their neighborhood, there's a button at the top right to submit a tip about a crime, and they can click on that, and it's not linked to that icon on the screen, it's just any crime in general.”
The tips are routed through a third party server in Canada, so anonymity is guaranteed.
However, it is set up so investigators can get in touch with tipsters for additional information.
“When a person does submit a tip, it is important, though, that as they go through all the information that it requests, there's a spot where they can put a password, and that's important because if the investigator has questions about that tip, they can respond to the tip, and that person needs that password to get back into the system and have that dialogue back and forth with that investigator, but all that back and forth dialogue is anonymous.”
Some tips, according to the Chief, may result in cash rewards.
This system also allows you to get alerts sent to your computer or smartphone in the event of a breaking news situation like a gas leak or missing child.
That aspect does require a subscription, but it is free.
“An individual can go in and sign up for CrimeReports and provide the information they need, an email address and so on, and the police department can send out alerts.”
The police department is also circulating posters and business cards in the Niles area, encouraging people to sign up for CrimeReports and leave tips.
The poster even has a CrimeReports app stamp that you can capture and download to your phone.
Chief Millin says the new system is already making a difference.
“We have had feedback. It's been positive. We've received several tips that investigators are following up on right now. So, it has been positive, and we're hoping that more citizens take advantage of it.”
The CrimeReports system in Niles went online late last year.
To access it, just log on to crimereports.com and type in Niles, Michigan.
Berrien Springs has a similar system, as does the University of Notre Dame Security Police.
As we told you back in January, South Bend is supposed to launch its CrimeReports system in April.