Hamilton considers creating online crime map

Councillors want local police to investigate establishing an online map showing recent calls for service.

Hamilton is looking into creating an online crime map that will show residents recent police calls for service.

Councillors voted Wednesday to look into the feasibility of a map similar to the one started in January by Halton police. The Hamilton Police Service board will ask the chief to investigate establishing a similar map.

A crime map would give the public access to information they want, and that they can already access by request, said Coun. Jason Farr from Ward 2, who moved the motion.

"I'm with the police chief in Halton on this one. I think it's a no brainer," he said. "It's worth, in the very least, a discussion and that's what we're having."

The Halton Regional Police Service released its crime mapping software on Jan. 24. It uses a company called CrimeReports, which produces the maps for $2,000 per year.

'I'm really concerned that we're stigmatizing a neighbourhood'

Not all councillors at Wednesday's general issues committee liked the idea. A map that shows numerous calls for service could paint an area in a bad light, said Coun. Maria Pearson.

"I'm really concerned that we're stigmatizing a neighbourhood," she said.

But crime information by neighbourhood is available anyway for residents who request it, Farr said. Investors can request it and neighbourhood associations get the information at their meetings.

This would just provide easier and more up-to-date access for everyone, he said.

Hamilton police have put in a $250,000 budget request for a new crime-mapping system, a figure that would cover software, hardware and licencing, according to police spokesperson Catherine Martin.

'Sophisticated' tool would be more than just a web-based crime map: police

The HPS tool would be much more "sophisticated" than Halton's, she said, adding a publicly accessible web-based crime map would only be one component of the system.

She said other elements of the system would feature "crime analysis with video incident linking," and would help police track high-risk offenders and predict potential trends in crime.  

"It's going to enhance the service's analytical capacity to identify and analyze crime."

Coun. Terry Whitehead wondered about the timing. Hamilton Police Service has trimmed its budget twice under the scrutiny of city councillors, who may vote against it when it's presented this month, he said.

"I support the principal," he said. But "the timing is terrible to ask the police service to do more and spend more and at the same time, we're going to consider a budget that some of us think is too high."

Councillors will examine a report on the feasibility at a future general issues committee meeting.