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To fight crime, officials peg hopes on new online map

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Goodhue County began using an online interactive mapping system about a year ago.

RED WING — Goodhue County law enforcement officials hope a new online interactive mapping system will help reduce crime and create a more vigilant and informed public.

CrimeReports pulls calls for service information from Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office records and posts it on a free public website . The site allows residents to view crimes and traffic stops in their neighborhood or countywide.

The site also tracks where sex offenders live, providing names and physical descriptions.

Residents can use CrimeReports to submit tips to police and register to receive email alerts when crimes occur in their neighborhoods. 

"It is an accurate, quick means of providing a method for us to keep the public informed and involved," said Lyle Lorenson, Goodhue County sheriff’s department chief deputy. "CrimeReports strengthens our community-oriented policing efforts and improves our ability to collaborate and share information between the public and us."

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Goodhue County started using the program about a year ago. The Red Wing and Cannon Falls police departments also use CrimeReports, which pulls information daily from each department’s records management system.

Goodhue County Sheriff Scott McNurlin said the technology helps get more eyes and ears on the streets as the county works with shrinking resources during a tough economy.

The program costs the county $4,200 a year, he said.

"With budgets being tight, we need to look for more ways to partner with the citizens we serve to effectively keep our communities safe," McNurlin said.

The sheriff hopes round-the-clock instant access to information helps residents feel empowered and encourages them to share more information with law enforcement.

Red Wing Police Chief Tim Sletten agrees.

"We believe that if people have more information about what is happening where they live, work, and play that they will be able to watch future activity and help us more," Sletten said.

McNurlin and Sletten said it’s still too early to tell whether the program has helped deter crime.

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They both said community members and other groups have been excited about the program and its many features, including CrimeReports’ ability to generate crime information and activity reports on a monthly basis for townships and cities.

CrimeReports also allows law enforcement officials to analyze data and better identify criminal hot spots.

"Deputies and investigators can use this information in the same manner as the public," Lorenson said. "This is a fast and simple way for them to stay updated when they return to work from their days off or after vacation."

It gives the public another tool as well.

"Having a better informed public will give us more eyes and ears to what is happening in our community," Sletten said. "It really is a win-win program."

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