The city of Danville has created a map detailing crime within the city, and this map is now accessible in seconds to anyone with an Internet connection.
The interactive map pinpoints the location of police-documented incidents of aggravated assault, arson, burglary, forcible sexual offense, grand larceny, homicide, motor vehicle theft and robbery.
“With crime mapping, the value is really a matter of awareness,” Danville Police Maj. Chris Wiles said. “The map provides crime statistics to the public in a visual way, and it shows what’s going on in multiple views ranging from citywide to the neighborhood level.”
Updated nightly, the map shows the type of crime committed and on which block.
"We want to respect the privacy of crime victims,” Wiles said. “For this reason, the map will not show individual residences or parcels.”
To find the map, go to gis.danvilleva.gov/CrimeApp/.
The city’s Information Technology Department initiated the project and created the mapping application. Work on the map began in December.
“We did not have a way of mapping out crime that was available to the public,” said Tim Shortley, a geographic information systems programmer/analyst in the department. “We think this is an innovative way of presenting crime activity, and it is detailed, but not so much so that it invades anybody’s privacy.”
The interface of the program should be relatively intuitive for most users, especially those familiar with online mapping tools such as Google Maps. For anyone not familiar with mapping tools, the application provides a step-by-step tutorial.
When users open the application, they will encounter a disclaimer page that includes a link to the tutorial as well as technical and statistical notes and copyright information.
After agreeing to the disclaimer, the application will open onto the map itself. The initial map display shows the city’s 10 police beats and their boundaries. When clicking on one of the beats, a pop-up window will open and list the total number of crimes to date in that beat and a projection of total crimes for the full year.
“The projection allows for comparison of the current year to actual, year-end statistics from past years,” Shortley said.
Additional information is available by clicking on two buttons within the pop-up window. One button yields related records, which is a breakdown by category of total crimes to date.
The second button is a zoom tool. When clicking this button, the map display will change to an outline of police sub-beats, which are geographical areas within a beat. Crime statistics are available by clicking on each sub-beat.
Police beat and sub-beat maps are color-coded. “These colors show the intensity of criminal activity in those areas,” Shortley said. “Darker red indicates a high level of criminal activity. Gray indicates little activity.”
To examine criminal activity at a street level view, users can continue to zoom. They also can search the map by entering an address in the locator box provided in the top right corner of the application. The map display will show only the block in which the address is located.
At the street level view, the map will display crime symbols within block locations where documented criminal activity has occurred. When clicking on the individual crime symbols, a pop-up window will open and provide information about the criminal activity in that block.
The map not only serves as a visual element of criminal activity for the current year, but it can display layers of information since the beginning of 2011.
“The layers allow people to view crime trends,” Shortley said. “For example, if a resident wanted to see how many larcenies have occurred in his or her neighborhood, he or she can type in his or her address, and then check off which years they want to view.”
Users can print screen views provided by the map.
Future enhancements include increased performance and mobile adaptability.