Lehigh Valley

Police turn to technology to map crime

Police turn to technology to map crime

SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. - Tracking crime in your own neighborhood, or a potential new home, is easier than ever. Area police departments are turning to technology to help you see real-time crime data on a searchable map. You can access the information on your desktop computer or even through a smart phone app.

After years of visiting Bethlehem, Fred Wagner decided it was time to make the Christmas City his home.

"My wife and I are retired and we found a place out here," said Wagner, who moved a few months ago from Clinton, N.J.

But which neighborhoods are the safest? A website called crimemapping.com can help you find out. It's a private site that displays real-time crime data from several area police departments on a searchable map.

"Response has been good," said officer Jeffrey Natysyn with South Whitehall Township Police in Lehigh County.

South Whitehall started using the service about a year ago, after neighborhood crime watch groups requested it. The police department pays about $2,000 a year for it.

"People can go on their computers, bring up South Whitehall Township, put in certain dates that they want to explore to see what crime was happening in the area," said Natysyn.

Bethlehem and Reading also use the Crime Mapping site. The information goes back six months and citizens can even sign up for crime alerts in their neighborhood. Residents told us the data could really come in handy.

"If they're buying a house or if they're just curious to see the crime rate in their area," said Julie Litsch of Bethlehem.

Some police do worry about a possible downside, though.

"If you have someone looking to do crimes in your area, they can actually go on the map and see what's the quietest," said Natysyn.

Natysyn said there's no evidence that criminals have ever used the information that way.

He added that the site probably hasn't lowered crime, but it does get the word out quickly if there's a rash of crimes in a particular area.

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