22.11.2015 Author: Vladimir Platov

Public Disclosure of Criminal Infrormation

N1nShD8VLgAIn the recent years, analysts from the US and a growing number of European countries studying organized transnational criminal groups conclude that in the 21st century activities of these groups pose the main threat to the global security. Moreover, it is said that activities of the organized criminal groups are even more dangerous to the society than that of the terrorists. Unlike the terrorist groups that make a name for themselves and voice their objectives by committing public violent acts, the organized criminal groups act in disguise, establishing close connections with local criminal structures, and acting in cooperation with them, endangering lives of the residents of particular regions and cities.

According to the experts, after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, countries redirected their main forces and funds to fight terrorism (Global War On Terrorism / GWOT), which crippled their crime and organized criminal group countering programs contributing to the consolidation of the latter. That resulted in the reduction of personnel and funding for the agencies appointed to counter organized crime. American FBI services, which, in line with the political situation of that time, adjusted its agenda placing the issue of organized crime down to the sixth position, can serve as an indicative example of this process. Hundreds of American federal agents, who had fought organized crime, got new appointments to the antiterrorist units. Surely, mobs and the organized criminal groups immediately used the situation to their advantage.

It is very important to get informed about the crime situation and the presence of criminal groups prior to engaging in business activities in another city or another country. Such information can be received from the local law enforcement agencies, but they do not always provide such information promptly and eagerly to private individuals and sometimes even to companies. It is for this reason that certain Internet websites, which, having concluded agreements with local law enforcement agencies, attempt to create databases containing this type of information, are gaining momentum and popularity among users of the global information network.

In the recent years, a popular real estate search engine Trulia started providing this sort of information in the United States.

Earlier versions of Trulia were programmed to provide almost exhaustive information about real estate, such as lists of proposals by prices and regions as well as pictures of the houses and their geographic location in the map. But in June 2011 (following requests of its customers), Trulia real estate search introduced a new feature providing information pertaining to the crime situation in the selected neighborhood.

Trulia receives crime reports for the US cities from three partner companies: CrimeReports.com, EveryBlock.com, and SpotCrime.com. These companies collaborate with the police departments; have access to the law enforcement agencies’ data and news reports. However, Trulia admits that not all US police departments disclose information on the crime situation and records of offences. This is why Trulia is actively seeking to engage as many American police departments as possible so that it can receive detailed real time feedback on the committed crimes.

Maps published by Trulia now show annual crime statistics in different areas of cities. For example, the areas with the highest crime rates are highlighted dark red, the areas with fewer criminal cases are colored light-red, then orange, etc.

Trulia provides information on crime in cities and regions of the United States via all types of social networking: mobile phones, iPhone, the mobile Internet, and Androyd.

In addition, Trulia real estate search system provides specific details about crimes in particular cities and areas, statistical data, and other useful information about crime situation in a particular area of the US, which can be very useful for those looking to establish business there.

To make the fight against organized crime more effective and transparent and to raise public awareness, French authorities also decided to develop a specialized website providing statistics, insights and graphical data related to this aspect of operations of the national law enforcement agencies in 2007. Since the main duty of the National Crime Trends Observator (“L’Observatoire national de la délinquance” (OND)) department of the National Supervisory Body on Crime and Punishment (Institut national des hautes études de la sécurité et de la justice (INGESJ)), created in 2004, was to monitor and analyze the situation with organized crime in France, it was also charged with the development of a relevant website.

To aid OND in its mission, specialists of the General Directorate of the National Police (DGPN) and Directorate-General of the National Gendarmerie (DGGN) were engaged in the project. They were assigned a task of regularly updating the site with new statistical and analytical information. Experience accumulated by GALIGEO, a company working in the same field, was also used in the development of the project. As a result of mutual efforts, a site named CartoCrime.net was created ().

To inform the public of the site, its objectives and capabilities were explained in the national mass media and on the websites of the French law enforcement agencies. Authorities assured the public that there was no reason to fear that disclosure of detailed crime statistics would deter tourists and investors from some areas, as it happened in England after the release of crime information to the public.

CartoCrime.net offers a two-level access to the published data: public level access, which allows the users to only view standard information and professional level access, where the users can make enquiries about specific offences and the criminals committing them.

The cartographic portal of the site allows to:

Centralize statistics monthly updated by OND.

Facilitate access to the information based on the input geographical data.

Receive a numeric output to the enquiry specifying certain parameters (period, crime category, location of the crime scene, etc.).

Display the results of the enquiry in a form of a table, diagram, or an interactive map.

Retrieve information pertaining to a specific area.

Print or export search results (statistical data, diagrams, messages, maps) in different formats (PDF, HTML, XLS, CSV, etc.).

Such functionalities allow the user of the site to easily receive comprehensive information on a selected category of crime in the selected area: theft, carjacking, capture of hostages, presence of drug dealers and other representatives of organized crime, homicides, etc. In addition, it provides information about the number of residents in the area, area’s infrastructure, sanitary and economic indicators, topographic information (i.e., the relief, roads, water bodies, etc.).

In accordance with the feedback received from the French law enforcement agencies, developers of CartoCrime.net continually upgrade the site’s interface and the scope and nature of information posted to it.

There are no doubts that access to crime statistics helps residents of a particular country or settlement stay aware of the crime situation and take timely precautions to better protect their homes and lives. At the same time, awareness of the public of the crime situation motivates authorities of the cities with high crime rates to improve the anticrime measures.

Vladimir Platov, expert specialized on the Middle East region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”