This is the blog for Robert Vincent, Chief of Police for the Gulfport (Florida) Police Department. Please feel free to leave comments, but keep in mind that anything appearing on this page may be subject to retention and disclosure in accordance with Florida public records law.

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Monday, May 5, 2014

How Is Crime In My Neighborhood?

We often get calls from people wanting to know about crime in their neighborhood. This used to be a complicated question requiring our analyst to run a database query given a particular set of parameters, such as date range, geographic radius, crime type, etc. Even then, the results would be limited to data from Gulfport, which isn’t very helpful if you live near the border.

Well nowadays there is a much better way to get the information you want. Pinellas County has developed a web-based application that compiles crime information from most jurisdictions, including Gulfport and St. Petersburg. It works like this: every day, the system scans our records database and pulls information on dates, locations, and offense types. This data is then automatically plotted on a map of the county.

Users can access the system and run their own queries at any time. So if you want to know, for example, how many auto thefts there have been within a mile of your house in the last 30 days, just make a couple of clicks, and it will all be mapped for you.

This is extremely valuable information, but there are a couple of important caveats. While the system retrieves data daily, it does not update old records. So if an investigation has resulted in a change (a theft is discovered to have been a civil matter, for example) you may not have the most current or accurate classification. Additionally, it’s important to note that not all agencies classify their reports the same way. Database difference may make it appear as though one jurisdiction has lots of a particular offense while another has none. To minimize this effect, I recommend filtering each search to a limited number of offenses.

These hiccups aside, the crime viewer application is still the easiest way to get the most thorough results about crime in your neighborhood.