Monday, April 4, 2011

Neighborhoods, Public Safety, & Social Media

In an excellent use of technology to keep neighborhoods safe, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, using social media to keep track of neighborhood crime and inform fellow residents is a wise strategy.

An excerpt.

“Meet Robert Earl Randall, or "Bobby," as he is known to friends and police.

“Randall, 44, has amassed a 12-page rap sheet that includes arrests on charges of burglary, driving under the influence, possession of controlled substances, impersonation, writing a phony prescription, receiving stolen property and taking a vehicle without permission.

“Last week, found sleeping in a broken-down camper parked next to his mother's house off Opal Lane in the Hagginwood area, he was arrested again as a suspect in two additional burglaries.

"I'm not trying to be a criminal," Randall told Sacramento County sheriff's Sgt. Chris Joachim as he sat handcuffed the patrol car. "I don't want to go to prison."

“Randall is one of the people you lock your doors against. But, increasingly, Sacramento-area residents are deciding that is not enough.

“Some are turning to online crime-tracking tools or creating neighborhood watch groups on the Internet that give them instant access to crimes reported in their neighborhoods and suspicious activity.

“Susanne Burns is one of them. The Carmichael resident decided she had to do something after her home was burglarized last May while her family slept.

“The family had left vehicles in the driveway to make room for a pre-prom party in the garage. The burglars apparently broke into her husband's truck and used the garage door opener to get inside the garage and then the house.

“When she discovered the burglary, Burns followed the traditional route, setting up a Neighborhood Watch group of homes in her gated community.

"We started emailing and this list grew basically out of control," she said. "It started with me emailing the 22 homes in our little community. It just mushroomed, and I think that's when it hit me."

"It" was the idea of harnessing Facebook. The result is Carmichael Watchgroup, a page on the social networking site that has 342 members and notifies residents of community meetings with the Sheriff's Department, crime-tracking websites and criminal reports.

“News about stolen bikes, garage break-ins and other crimes are posted regularly. At Christmas, video from one home's security cameras was posted showing a burglar breaking into a house and leaving on a bicycle with stolen property.

“Elsewhere, communities from Granite Bay to Natomas have set up email alerts to keep residents abreast of what is going on in their neighborhoods, and several area law enforcement agencies are contracting with companies to put crime data online and make it available to anyone for free.”