ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WJLA) - The Alexandria Police Department is going high tech with a new way for residents to protect and educate themselves about crime in their neighborhoods.
Before, if you wanted more information about a crime that occurred in the City of Alexandria, you could get it using the department's clunky search engineit just wasn't easy. Or, you'd have to go to the police station, find the right person, and have them pull a report on the crime you were looking for. Now, all you need is your smartphone.
When you want to hash out the headlines, Misha's Coffee in Alexandria is a neighborhood hub.
"Every day it's the same thing; it's the neighborhood scoop, all day, every day," said barista Jesse Veckley.
The scoop at Misha's is about more than coffee for Veckley; it's about sharing the news his customers might not know about. Now, he has a new tool to find it.
"That is pretty wild," Veckley said, when ABC 7 News showed him a map showing every crime in Alexandria dating back two years.
"The map comes courtesy of RAIDS Online, a tool Alexandria Police use to analyze crime stats to determine how best to police the city. Now, they're letting you use this website and app, toofor free.
"You can look up anything that's reported to the police department," said Crystal Nosal, a spokesperson for the Alexandria Police Department.
So, after you see flashing lights and yellow crime tape, you can find out what happened and when. It's public information in the digital age, with everything from death investigations to burglaries mapped out with icons you can click to get the story.
"It's stuff you know is happening, so I'm not really scared either way," said Annandale resident Tim Howland. "But it is kind of nice to know if there's one concentrated area, maybe I'll avoid that street at night."
RAIDS Online even shows those concentrated areas, using heat maps to highlight places with higher crime.
"It's actually good for our residents to see what's happening and where, because there's often a perception that there's more crime than there actually is," Nosal said.
Now you can see for yourself and share. Veckley says he will, sharing the stats along with the coffee.
"[It] will be nice to let customers know, at least, what's going on," he said.
Right now, only two other local jurisdictions use RAIDS Online: the Metropolitan Police Department in D.C. and the New Carrollton Police Department in Maryland. And while the tool puts a lot of crime information online, there are a few exceptions; there are only block numbers, not exact addresses. Crimes currently under investigation will be listed online, just not with complete details.