Monday, March 2, 2009

You can track crime hotspots online, too

IT’S great to know that crime hotspots in Petaling Jaya will be tracked using a software the Petaling Jaya city council has presented to the police last week.

What the system does, if I understand it correctly, is to compile the crime records in the area and mark them on a map. From here, the frequency, type of crime and other details will help the crime busters do an even better job.

Hopefully, the news would inspire other local councils in the Klang Valley such as Ampang Jaya, Subang Jaya and Kuala Lumpur to do the same and make not only their areas safe but the entire Klang Valley as well.

While it may not be possible to buy a similarly sophisticated system, other councils which hope to do the same need not despair. They can turn to the Internet and come up with similarly useful crime watch tools, too.

I am talking about Google Maps and Google Earth — two mapping applications that have been around for some time. They have been used by Internet users to mark anything from their own addresses to places of interest in the neighbourhood.

The good thing about these applications is that they are free, easy to use and allows collaboration — more than one person can contribute to the project, in this case, the neighbourhood crime watch, which can be a collective effort by both the police force and the public living in the area.
Crime spots can be marked on the virtual maps by just about anyone who has a Google account.

Short notes and photographs of the crime prone areas can be posted and updated, too.

Even videos can be embedded if so wished although I am not sure if “live” video streaming is possible to take feeds from CCTVs.

Setting it up is as easy as registering for an account and learning how to use the Internet-based application is as simple as checking out the frequently asked questions on site.

Of course, these free applications cannot offer the bells and whistles of a commercially-produced software, like drawing up past crime records for a specific area, or zooming down to ground zero where crime has taken place.

But as neighbourhood crime watch tools, they will serve their primary purpose of alerting both the public and the authorities to crime prone areas.

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