Local News

Durham police switch up system for tracking crime data

Posted January 23, 2015

Editor's note: WRAL.com has a contractual relationship with SpotCrime to provide crime maps based on data from local police agencies. SpotCrime is a competitor of RAIDS Online.

The Durham Police Department has changed the way it delivers its crime data to the public, opting for an outside vendor rather than an in-house mapping system.

Police Chief Jose Lopez says the move will save the department money and replace an outdated crime map with a more accurate, easier-to-use system called RAIDS Online. But some argue that even though the system is free for users, it limits what the public can do with crime information.

Although the old system, called CrimeMapper, is still online, the city stopped updating the site in January.

Donna Brustad, the property manager at Azalea Park Apartments, was initially upset to learn of the change to the city's CrimeMapper site. She relied on the system to keep an eye on neighborhood crime – a top priority for her.

"We work hard to keep the community safe," Brustad said. "We really try."

But police are assuring Brustad and others who relied on the nearly decade-old CrimeMapper that the new system is just as good, if not better. In an open letter, Lopez said the department tapped RAIDS Online to take over the distribution of crime data as the old site became more outdated.

"The Durham Police Department is being fiscally responsible, is legally justified and is still directly serving the needs of our citizens in decommissioning the CrimeMapper application and continuing to use the free RAIDS Online tool to distribute crime data to our citizens," Lopez wrote.

Beverly Thompson, Durham's director of public affairs, said the new site also provides additional information on so-called "part-II" crimes like fraud and DWI, which the public couldn't see before in CrimeMapper.

Some are taking issue with the company's terms of use, namely Colin Drane, the owner of competing company SpotCrime. Drane said he used to pull information from CrimeMapper for his site, an option not permitted on the RAIDS Online service.

"The fact that it is now digital shouldn't mean that somehow one company should get preferential access over the press or citizens," Drane said.

RAIDS Online owner Sean Bair admits that while still accessible, the crime data is no longer as open as it was on CrimeMapper. But he says that's a good thing for citizens. He said his company cleans up the often messy department data to paint a more accurate picture of crime in the city.

"It's important that people understand the nuances of the data, and the best way to do that is to present it to them in the best way it can be presented," Bair said.

Thompson said the company gets no preferential treatment and that anybody could request the city's crime data in the same format RAIDS Online receives it, per state public records law.

She also said the city is working on an open data portal due for launch in the late spring or early summer that would provide raw crime data, among other information.


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