A crime mapping website now gives details on law enforcement activity in Bemidji and Beltrami County.
Area law enforcement said it's a great tool for the public - whether you're looking for crime statistics in a potential new neighborhood or just want to know what's going on next door.
Last fall, the city and county upgraded its record management software, and as part of the program, website CrimeReports.com allows residents to track real-time policing data where they live.
The website has been active in Beltrami County for at least a couple of months, but now is fully functional in Bemidji, offering a wide array of options for users.
"My hope is that people use the site to be more engaged in their community," Bemidji Police Chief Mike Mastin said Monday.
The site should help residents have a better understanding of their community, help police solve crimes and hopefully improve people's opinions of law enforcement, Mastin said.
"It's really meant to serve the public as an information site," he said. "It gets them more involved in our department... It opens up our department."
While some people might want to know why police visited next door, others simply want to get more information about trends in the neighborhood.
"It's a great tool for the public," said Beltrami County Sheriff's Sgt. Jarrett Walton. "People know what's happening and where it's happening."
The website acts as a virtual scanner by giving those details and operates similar to mapping software available to law enforcement, which has access to an even more detailed and sophisticated database.
Once on the public site, users have a list of options that is customizable. They can also sign up for updates and alerts.
Eventually, residents will be able to leave crime tips for officers.
The website also could be a powerful tool for a variety of purposes.
For instance, prospective homebuyers and Realtors could use the website to determine the safety of a neighborhood. Mastin said people have different definitions of safety and the website would provide details to help homebuyers make decisions more comfortably.
Walton said the website also reduces the number of requests to the Sheriff's Office for real estate information, particularly about neighborhood calls for service, because the information is immediately available online.
The crime map is available 24 hours a day, either on the website (www.crimereports.com) or through an iPhone app downloaded free to your phone. An icon on the Bemidji Police Department and Beltrami County Sheriff's Office websites also will direct users to an online map.
In a news release, Greg Whisenant, founder and CEO of CrimeReports, said agencies using the website are "demonstrating their commitment to the community, by providing information that allows citizens to be more informed and to take a proactive role in making their community safer."
More than 1,000 law enforcement agencies currently use the map.