Eastern Michigan University newest safety tool is crime mapping

by Ward Mullens, Published June 09, 2009

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YPSILANTI —One of the most important tools in crime prevention and safety is getting an accurate and timely picture of what is going on.

Eastern Michigan University and the City of Ypsilanti are taking that picture one step further.

By partnering with EMU’s Institute for Geospatial Research, EMU’s Department of Public Safety and the Ypsilanti Police Department have created a mapping/tracking system for area crime.

“We saw an opportunity to use EMU resources to help the campus and the community by providing timely, accurate information that enhances the safety of our campus,” said Sue Martin, president of EMU.

“This is part of our commitment to having a transparent police agency,” said Greg O’Dell, executive director of public safety at EMU. “With this addition to our Web site, people have total access to a lot of information.”

“We want to increase the awareness of what’s going on out there. If we increase awareness, people will have a better understanding of what is going on and take appropriate action,” said O’Dell.

The crime mapping application is located on the DPS Web site (http://geodata.acad.emich.edu/Crime/Main.htm) and provides users with a visual representation of where crime is occurring by adding markers to a map of the campus and the city. The application uses the Google mapping Web interface to plot the points where crimes occur.

“DPS posts the data daily to its Web site and the application looks at that data and maps it,” said Mike Dueweke, manager of EMU’s Institute for Geospatial Research.

The map locates the crime within the correct block, but does not pinpoint the exact address to insure the victim’s privacy, O’Dell said.

Dueweke said that while EMU’s crimes will appear almost immediately, Ypsilanti’s reporting process will take longer to log crimes in the system.

Users of the Web site can see crimes that have occurred in the past 60 days. Crimes tracked include the seven Clery Act categories (arson, aggravated assault, burglary, criminal sexual conduct, motor vehicle theft, murder and robbery) as well as larceny from a vehicle.

“One of the nice things is that this is not labor intensive for us,” O’Dell said. “We do not have to devote working resources to it.”

Dueweke said that the application took several months to create and cost about $15,000.

Having the City of Ypsilanti participate in the project was very important, O’Dell said.

“Our students are part of the larger community of Ypsilanti, so it is very important that they can get the entire picture of what is happening on campus and in the community,” O’Dell said.

O’Dell cautioned that, while having more information is better, the data must be compared to other campuses to get the clearest assessment of what is happening and how EMU compares to other universities.

“They have to continue to use the data and compare our numbers at EMU to other campuses around the state. If they do the comparisons, they will see that our numbers, for the most part, are in the middle of the pack and lower in some cases,” said O’Dell.

“There have been some misconceptions about what is going on. With this, anyone can drill down and see what is happening,” O’Dell said.

Ward Mullens

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