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Albany set to put crime map online

ALBANY – City residents can soon pinpoint locations of thefts, rapes and murders on the Internet – as well as send police anonymous tips via e-mail, officials said Thursday.

The Albany Police Department’s crime mapping system debuts Wednesday, giving citizens first-ever information about malfeasance ranging from the theft of “a can of corn at Price Chopper, up to and including murder,” Police Chief James Tuffey told reporters.

The Interactive Crime Mapping system breaks down, neighborhood by neighborhood, statistics for six crimes: murders, rapes, robberies, larcenies, burglaries and aggravated assaults.

Each Wednesday, the new site will post crimes from the prior Monday to Sunday. It will date back three weeks, Tuffey said.

The site is: https://www.albanyny.org/Government/Departments/Police/cmapping.aspx.

The chief, who announced the initiative along with Mayor Jerry Jennings at police headquarters, said Albany is only the second large city in New York to introduce such a system. Tuffey said that city, Syracuse, uses dots to highlight crimes.

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be doing this,” Jennings said.

Albany police have tracked crime on the Internet internally over the past two years. Tuffey credited it for driving violent crime into a two-year decline. The new maps lump nonfatal shootings alongside aggravated assaults, which means they cannot be directly tracked. While Albany’s violent crimes plummeted to their lowest level in 15 years last year, shootings rose over the first 11 months of 2007, from 32 to 46.

The department’s Web site says the mapping will “identify crime hot spots, along with other trends and patterns,” where police can focus their efforts.

Tuffey did not give an exact cost for the plan, saying it will be funded by dollars from the state’s Operation Impact project. He said the tip line is also a first. It comes as police and prosecutors continue to deal with residents sometimes reluctant to come forward.

“We really want the public to get back to us on things,” Tuffey said.

The announcement comes a day after Albany County District Attorney David Soares announced Citizen Observer, a new effort that lets the public e-mail or text message crime tips to law enforcement. The system allows for anonymity and can process information in real time.

A preview of the software can be viewed at www.citizenobserver.com.

Soares’ spokeswoman, Heather Orth, when told of Tuffey’s plan, said, “Anything that tries to help with crime-fighting initiatives is fantastic. The DA applauds any effort to do that.”