Late last year, the Selbyville Police Department became one of the few local law enforcement agencies to utilize a computer service, called Nixle, to directly contact members of the community in the event of an emergency or other urgent concerns. Now, with the help of grants and state funding, the department has introduced another program aimed at keeping the public abreast of local situations: the incident map.
“Nixle and the incident map work in conjunction with each other,” explained Selbyville Police Chief W. Scott Collins. “With Nixle, we can directly contact those who have registered in the event of an emergency. It’s designed for getting information out to computers and PDA’s. With the incident map, people can check to see where specific crimes or traffic concerns are happening.”
Incident mapping allows for public review of specific police responses by pinpointing on a town map where the situations occurred. Data – including crimes, collisions, road closures, locations of speed trailers, code-enforcement incidents, arrests, DUIs and sex-offender notifications – are marked on a map on the police department’s Web site, and data on each incident remains on the map for 30 days after its occurrence. The exception to that rule is road-closure notifications, which are removed from the site once the roadways are reopened.
“It’s a very convenient way for people to see exactly how often and where crime is going on,” Collins added. “It also helps quash rumors that may arise. It doesn’t take much for a couple of rummages through unlocked cars to turn into a rash of break-ins. The map gives people the truth about what’s going on and can also be used to inform those new to the area, too.”
Data on the incident maps does not include specific details of crimes, such as the identities of suspects, defendants or victims, but the public can follow current and accurate crime trends and flows.
“The public view of the software is what is seen when they visit our police department’s Web site,” Collins said. “Our officers have another view that gives a little more detail. This is especially convenient for officers who may be coming back from vacation or a long shift off. They’ll know what areas to watch and where to look, based on what has been happening. It’s just a way for us to get a little more information out there to the public.”
Six months ago, the department applied for a grant to fund the new software program. Since the grant approval, the department has been busy setting up the map and ironing out the last few details.
“It’s a very good complementary system to what we provide with Nixle,” Collins added. “This map provides the gist of what’s going on – not necessarily things that are on a need-to-know basis, as Nixle does.”
The fact that information can simply be acquired by visiting the department’s Web site is another convenience. The Nixle program, although free and customizable for each user, requires community members to sign up, which Collins feels has contributed to a lower number of registrants than what the department aimed for when they joined.
“As of right now,” Collins noted, “we’re the only department that I know of who is running an incident map in lower Sussex County. I’ve heard of other departments looking at it. It’s a very reasonable program, compared to others.”
All Selbyville neighborhoods and developments that have been completed are included on the map. States, such as Minnesota and Oregon, as well as metropolitan areas such as Baton Rouge, have also implement an incident map to keep the community up-to-date on what’s going on in those locales.
“The program is very user-friendly,” Collins added, “and one of the best things is that nothing came out of the town budget. The public doesn’t have to make calls or registrations to find out about what’s going on, and it keeps calls to the department down, allowing for our officers to better do our job.”
The map, monitored by officers in the department, will be updated two to three times each week, with accurate information readily available. To view Selbyville’s new traffic incident map, visit www.selbyvillepolice.com or access it by visiting the town’s Web site at www.townofselbyville.com and clicking the tab marked “Police Department.”