The St. Paul Pioneer Press has joined the list of media offering readers online crime data. St. Paul crime trends is an interactive map of major crimes reported to police. The newspaper says that when the United Kingdom put a crime map online in 2011 that mapped crime for every street in England and Wales, it got up to 18 million hits an hour, crashing the website. (The population of England and Wales was 56.1 million.) When the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel launched its own crime incident map in April, “it was by far the most popular page of the day,” said reporter Ashley Luthern. Colin Drane, founder of the SpotCrime.com website, said his nationwide crime-mapping site gets the most visits in the country, with 1 million unique visitors and 8 million email alerts a month.
“I think there’s a huge appetite for this,” said Elizabeth Groff, a criminal justice professor at Temple University who has studied crime maps. Crime-map advocates say the maps give citizens greater power to hold police accountable. For example, if police claim that a robbery was an isolated incident in a particular neighborhood, it should be reflected in the mapped data. And the crime-incident maps may give people a more realistic picture of their risk of being a victim than just reading about the most serious crimes that get newspaper headlines and lead the evening news.