Several cities offer online maps showing where various types of crimes have been committed. However, the map recently deployed by Seattle is one of the few to offer links to redacted police reports.

The city's My Neighborhood Map eliminated a laborious manual process that will free up employees to do other work, according to Seattle CIO Bill Schrier. Before deployment of the online map, citizens had to visit police stations to request police reports and typically waited an average of 12 days to receive them. Now, a few simple clicks on the online map can instantly get citizens any police report they need.

"It helps citizens know what's going on in their neighborhood," Schrier said. "As they see things that are serious, they might actually be able to help spot crimes or spot trends in crimes in their neighborhoods or recognize the method of operation of certain burglars and be able to suggest possible suspects. They can organize themselves into block watches or neighborhood watches."

Each crime is marked on the map with an icon in one of five colors representing five general categories of crime. By running his or her mouse over an icon, the user sees a few details about the crime and a link to the redacted police report. Later this month, Schrier plans to release the data on, a site that aggregates city data for citizens to program into their own applications. Schrier hopes a Seattle resident will create an application that uses analytics for predicting what crimes are likelier to happen in various sections of the city.

Schrier said generating the reports for citizens was work-intensive in the past. When police reports arrived at the Seattle Police Department, an employee redacted any sensitive data with a felt-tip pen, scanned the report and then sent it to a server. After that, five CD sets were made of the reports, which employees distributed manually to precincts. Employees then loaded the discs into publicly available desktops for citizens and reporters to access.

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Andy Opsahl  | 

Andy Opsahl is a former writer and features editor for Government Technology magazine.