PIQUA — The Piqua Police Department is now taking part in an initiative from the White House and the Department of Justice to increase trust and accountability with the public through a form of open policing.
The White House and the Department of Justice announced Thursday that 76 law enforcement agencies have signed on to the Police Data Initiative since April of this year, including the Piqua Police Department. This brings the total to 129 law enforcement agencies covering more than 44 million individuals across the country. Those agencies also include two others from Ohio, which are Cincinnati and Cuyahoga County.
The initiative supports local police department efforts to share information and crime data with the public to increase transparency and accountability as well as build trust with their communities.
“We’re also using this as a guide for improvements we could be making,” Chief of Police Bruce Jamison of the Piqua Police Department said.
One the practical ways that the community will see a change is through the Piqua Police Department’s Community Crime Map, which is available online at CommunityCrimeMap.com. It is an online crime mapping and analytic tool that works with police records to display crime data on a map, grid, or the online dashboard. That is also the same site that the Miami County Sheriff’s Office is using to share their crime data.
The police department has already uploaded over 84,000 records to the Community Crime Map. Users can search different locations to see what types of crimes have been reported in those areas. They can also sign up to receive alerts about crimes that occur in their area or near their residence.
“One of the recommendations concerned open data, which was sort of a new concept to me and it can be sort of scary to a police department,” Jamison said.
In sharing crime data with the public, one concern is that it could be misinterpreted.
“It would be easy as we make this information available … for one day, one person will find one particular statistic, misinterpret it, not take it into context, and create some kind of community panic,” Jamison said.
Those who look up the various crime statistics available on the Community Crime Map should exercise caution when interpreting it to make sure that they have enough facts before making any assumptions about the community.
“Everybody has the flexibility to make those reports what they want, but they really need to make sure they’re using the data appropriately,” Jamison said.
The police department already releases their call logs three times a week, but this Community Crime Map will give people even more access and ways to examine police data.
They can look for what’s important to them and that might be different than what’s important to their next-door neighbor,” Jamison said. He added later, “There’s so much information available to the public, we want to help them interpret it. We think putting out this data in its raw form helps to do that.”
The Community Crime Map also helps the police department analyze their crime data, such as showing where patrols might be most needed.
“It does provide data that helps us plan, be proactive, as well as going back to establish patterns whenever there’s been a series of crimes,” Jamison said.
Currently, this Community Crime Map only uses Piqua crime data for a couple months, but the police department is looking into expanding that data further into the past. Taking part in this initiative will give the police department access to future support from the federal government.
“We want our community to know we appreciate the trust they have already shown in this department, and we refuse to take that trust for granted,” Jamison said. “We will continue to search for ways to engage with you and hold ourselves accountable to you.”
Jamison added that, even though this initiative comes from the White House, it also comes from the Department of Justice, and the police department’s participation in the initiative is not politically motivated.
“We’re committed to this concept no matter who gets elected,” Jamison said.
Jamison also warned against comparing this data to other jurisdictions as there are differences in how various law enforcement agencies report their crime data and their specific communities’ expectations.
The police department announced their Community Crime Map and their involvement in the Police Data Initiative to coincide with the White House Frontiers Conference, which started Thursday in Pittsburgh. A number of announcements are expected to be made at the conference, including those involving the Police Data Initiative as well as others regarding science, technology, and innovation.
For more information, visit www.frontiersconference.org or follow the hashtag #WHFrontiers on Twitter and social media.
Reach Sam Wildow at [email protected] or (937) 451-3336