The phrase “information is power" applies in many life situations, and it definitely applies to those who want to help keep their homes and families safe. As just one example, we now have online sex offender registries that inform us whether a convicted sex offender lives nearby.
Knowing, for example, that there has been a spate of burglaries in your neighborhood gives you extra incentive for being vigilant about home security
. When it comes to home security, knowing about crime in the community is an important way to see trends develop and come up with ways to increase safety. Here are five ways to stay on top of crime in your area.
1. Reading your local newspaper
Even in the Internet age, local newspapers are a very valuable source of information, particularly in smaller communities. A burglary that might be buried in a big city paper is often front page news in a small town paper. Furthermore, many local papers print arrest and criminal court information, so it's easy to determine if you know people who have been arrested, or to find out exactly where crimes take place. Unsolved crimes also tend to get a lot of attention in local newspapers. This is partly because they are important stories, but also because law enforcement may want the word out in case ordinary citizens have important information that can help solve crimes.
2. Listening to the local police scanner
This is not for everyone, and much of what you pick up on a local police scanner is mundane, but police scanners can be good sources of what's going on locally—right down to the street address. You can buy a police scanner and tune it to your local law enforcement frequency, or in many cases you can go online to get live police scanner feeds. For example, RadioReference.com provides more than 3,000 live audio feeds from across the United States. You simply click your location on a map and, if a police feed is available, you can listen to it for free.
3. Checking local crime reports and statistics online
There are numerous ways to check up on local crime by going online. Here are a few resources:
- SpotCrime.com allows you to input a location and get a map of recent crimes. You can also sign up for email alerts for a particular location.
- CrimeMapping.com provides a map you can click on to get to local crime information for many cities. You can select which crimes you want mapped, including arson, burglary, assault, homicide and many others. CrimeMapping.com also offers a free iPhone app, as well as the option to receive email alerts on local crimes.
- CrimeReports.com has a window for entering a street address. It then provides you with up-to-date information provided by local law enforcement about crimes. You can click on the map markers to find out the address, date, time and a brief description of local crimes.
4. Getting instant "snapshots" of local arrests
WhosArrested.com doesn't cover every county in the United States, but it does cover multiple counties in 23 states. Once you select the county you're interested in, you're presented with a tally of arrests the current week, month and year (and the same information for the previous week, month and year for comparison purposes), most frequent charges, and names of recent arrestees. Click on a crime category, such as "Theft," and you'll see a list of those in jail for that crime. Arrest Archives presents you with a calendar, which you can sort by date to find out who was arrested on a given day.
5. Getting to know people
Getting to know neighbors is a good general home security tip. Once you learn who your trustworthy neighbors are, they can help you with things like collecting your newspapers while you're on vacation, or parking a car in your driveway while you're gone to make it appear as if you're home. There is also some value in getting to know a local "busybody" as long as you're careful not to divulge much information (because it will be shared). Information that doesn't make it into the local media is often shared from person to person, and being plugged into a network of neighbors and friends can get you important local information you may not have known otherwise.