(TNS) -- Have you driven past a cluster of police cars surrounding a home or business and wondered, what’s going on?
Every Thursday, the Union-Tribune prints a map of San Diego County in the local section that pinpoints with color-coded dots the location of reported cases of arson, crimes against children, elder abuse, murder and rape. It also lists 12 other categories of crimes in a graphic.
The idea is to give readers a snapshot of reported crime in the region. Data specialist Michelle Gilchrist draws upon countywide data compiled by the San Diego Association of Governments, from material submitted to ARJIS (Automated Regional Justice Information System) by local law enforcement agencies.
The map began running in January.
Agencies reporting crimes to ARJIS are the county Sheriff’s Department and nine city police departments: Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Coronado, El Cajon, Escondido, La Mesa, National City, Oceanside and San Diego. The San Diego Harbor Police also participates.
They enter more than 800 criminal charges into the ARJIS system.
To create the map and make things more clear for readers, U-T editors and reporters came up with a list of 17 overall crime types that would account for all the charges.
That list includes alcohol/drug violations, arson, assault, burglary, DUI, elder abuse, fraud, murder, rape, robbery, sex crimes, theft, vandalism, vehicle break-in/thefts and weapons violations.
One of the categories is “crimes against children.” That caught the attention of one reader, who wanted to know what kinds of crimes fell into that category.
Gilchrist said it includes abuse, cruelty, neglect, molestation and all sexual crimes, including rape.
At the top of the map, murders, crimes against children, elder abuse, rape and arson are highlighted, with the number of incidents shown in large type.
Those are listed because it was thought they would be of most interest to readers.
However, a chart is also presented below the map that shows the rest of the week’s crimes. Often the most frequently reported are alcohol/drug violations, theft and burglaries.This week, there were 355 alcohol and drug violations, 253 thefts and 188 burglaries reported.
The map project is a bit fluid. Charge descriptions vary, week to week, and often times new ones pop up. As of last week, the list of charges had reached 1,082. When new descriptions are found, it is up to Gilchrist to figure out which crime type to place it in.
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