EyeCitizen, TPD crime map help residents track incidentsWritten by Ashley McMahon | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Area leaders are taking strides to ensure Toledo citizens are up-to-date on crime activity in their neighborhoods.
The Toledo Police Department (TPD) launched an interactive crime map in May 2014 and Toledo City Councilman Tom Waniewski released citywide access to EyeCitizen.org in June 2013.
While both resources allow Toledo residents to monitor criminal activity around their homes, each application is unique and offers its own alerts and customizations.
TPD’s crime map, found at crimemap.toledo.oh.gov, generates alerts based on reports that are filed for a designated area determined by the user, said TPD Public Information Officer Lt. Joe Heffernan.
This is different than calls for service, which is how alerts are generated for EyeCitizen.org, he said.
“Not every call for service is written up in a report. If you call 911 and say, ‘My neighbor’s dog is barking all night,’ EyeCitizen is going to send that to your phone if you’re signed up for their service,” Heffernan said. “An officer will arrive to the house and talk to the homeowner where the dog is barking, tell them to have their dog stop barking and will probably not write a report. This wouldn’t show up on the crime map.”
However, Waniewski’s EyeCitizen business partner Dave Bonitati clarified the service does not send “barking dog-type alerts.”
“We do send 911 alerts of a criminal nature such as ‘Person with a Gun or Knife,’ ‘Shots Fired,’ ‘Suspicions Person,’ etc. the type of 911 calls that neighbors would want to know about immediately,” Bonitati said.
TPD began using internal crime mapping in 2012 and launched a public access version two years later.
Users can enter a specific address on the map’s website and browse through all of the crimes reported within a half-mile radius during the past two months. In addition to browsing the site, users can sign up to receive email alerts. The map is refreshed three times a day, at the 6 a.m., 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. shift changes.
The public map cost $6,200 to develop through Dayton-based Optica Consulting, the same company that developed TPD’s internal mapping system.
Since its launch last year, citizens are using the service and TPD has been receiving a great response from the community, Heffernan said.
“It’s a very useful tool for someone who wants to monitor the crime activity in their neighborhood and keep track of the reports that are actually written,” he said.
The TPD crime map also allows citizens to submit a tip through a button on the map’s website. In addition, citizens can send a tip to police through the department’s Facebook page by sending the department a message.
EyeCitizen.org is a private service that offers crime alerts generated through 911 calls into TPD.
Waniewski created the service with Bonitati in 2012. He began beta testing the service in his district after discovering a desire for a crime alert service while attending a neighborhood block watch meeting in Old Orchard.
“Residents of Old Orchard were concerned about why they didn’t know why things were happening in their area,” Waniewski said.
As a result, he took action and began developing the crime alert database.
One example of how EyeCitzen helps residents is a member who watches children at a day care in her home, Bonitati said.
“She said she appreciates the EyeCitizen alerts, especially when there is someone with a gun or shots fired in her neighborhood because she quickly gets the kids into the house and out of harm’s way,” Bonitati said. “That’s the value of EyeCitizen, making neighborhoods alert and vigilant at the time of the potential danger.”
Waniewski and Bonitati paid the initial costs for research and development and launched EyeCitizen for District 5 in 2012. In June 2013, City Council approved $50,000 in funding to expand the service citywide.
However, the vote was taken before many Council members were aware of Waniewski’s connections and 1 percent stake in the company. As a result, Waniewski and Council determined it would be best if the city did not use taxpayer money to pay for the service.
“To avoid any controversy, I talked my business partners into providing the service for free to the entire city. So there was never anything spent by the city for EyeCitizen,” Waniewski told TFP in an email. “We decided to pay for it by seeking community sponsorships. Vito’s, Fry Heating and Habitec are keeping it free for residents.”
Toledoans can sign up for the service in up to three areas of interest. They receive alerts based on 911 calls made whenever a crime against property or people occurs within their monitoring area. Citizens can sign up for the service at eyecitizen.org.
“We don’t want anyone going out to stop a crime. We just want to be an extra pair of eyes for the police department,” Waniewski said. “We want to let the police department do their job. They’re the professionals, but whenever there’s a crime occurring, we need witnesses. We need to hear from the community: ‘What did you see?’”
There are currently about 10,000 users signed up for the service, Waniewski said.
Bonitati said he thinks EyeCitizen is helping reduce crime in the city.
“[Toledo Police] Chief [George] Kral reported that crime is down almost 20 percent in Toledo,” Bonitati said. “We believe we are having an effect. We envision a time when the majority of all neighborhoods will have EyeCitizen, then when an EyeCitizen alert is sent, all neighbors in that area will turn on their porch light, look out the window or even call their neighbors. A criminal will not want to stick around in an area knowing the neighborhood is alert and aware of a criminal in their neighborhood.”