County crime map gives citizens free online data

Published 9:33 am Friday, January 28, 2011

CASSOPOLIS — Cass County law enforcement has joined the national crime map, giving citizens free access to official data updated every 15 minutes through the website and iPhone app.

“It’s making technology useful to Cass County,” Capt. Lyndon Parrish explained in a presentation to the board of commissioners Jan. 20.

Parrish, who has been with the sheriff’s office for 22 years, became the project point person after winning training with his PowerPoint presentation for last October’s rural law enforcement technology institute in San Diego, Calif., for agencies containing fewer than 50 sworn officers.

Only 35 individuals across the country were invited.

His travel, food and lodging expenses were paid.

“One of the things we want to do with technology,” Parrish said, “is to make it so we get closer to our community, so they know what’s going on. With our smaller agencies, it’s more important that we work as a team with citizens.”

CrimeReports takes information from central dispatch and plots incidents on a map, so if people see flashing lights in their neighborhood, they can find out what’s going on or check to see how safe your neighborhood is.

This is possible through a new partnership between the law enforcement agencies in Cass County and CrimeReports, creators of the National Crime Map, at or the Cass County Sheriff’s Office website,

“Providing reliable, timely information to our citizens is one of our top priorities,” said Sheriff Joseph Underwood Jr. “By partnering with all of Cass County law enforcement, this tool gives us the ability to keep the public informed on a regular basis as to what is going on in the community.”

Underwood added that the public can access the crime map 24 hours a day through the website or through the CrimeReports iPhone app, available for free download in the Apple iTunes store.

The new service even lets local citizens sign up for free customizable e-mail alerts, so they can stay on top of crime in their neighborhood.

“Information is power,” the sheriff added, “and we hope that giving the community this information will help them prevent crime in their neighborhoods.”

“The law enforcement in Cass County , including the sheriff’s office, Dowagiac Police Department, Cassopolis Police Department and the Ontwa Township-Edwardsburg Police Department are leaders in law enforcement innovation,” said Greg Whisenant, founder and CEO of CrimeReports. “They are demonstrating their commitment to the community, to proactive policing and fiscal responsibility.”

The CrimeReports service costs law enforcement a shared $99 per month, but is free to citizens.

The county joins more than 1,600 other law enforcement agencies of all sizes across North America sharing their crime information with the public through the map, including Baltimore, Boston, San Jose, San Francisco, Portland, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles County.

CrimeReports bills itself as the No. 1 crime map and anonymous tip network in North America. 

It offers the largest and most accurate resource for timely, street-level crime and sex offender information on the Web.

The CrimeReports network offers a family of affordable, easy-to-use software tools created to help law enforcement agencies understand crime trends, share up-to-date information with the public and receive actionable intelligence from the community.

Empowering them to make informed decisions and help improve community safety, citizens can access the integrated crime map, create or join neighborhood groups and collaborate with other citizens and local law enforcement free at

Parrish demonstrated for commissioners how the map can “zoom in” on a particular neighborhood, though for privacy, blocks rather than individual addresses.

“As soon as central dispatch closes an officer’s call,” Parrish said, “that gets online within 15 minutes and you’ll be able to see what’s been going on. It’s really good for people who want to know what’s happening: ‘I’ve heard I have a lot of burglaries in my neighborhood.’ This is every jurisdiction’s information, including the state police, because central dispatch dispatches for every law enforcement agency.”

Icons differentiate what type of activity is shown, such as a little car for traffic.

“There are some little glitches,” Parrish said, “because it uses Google Maps, which are not completely accurate for Cass County, but we’re working on fixing some of the errors.”

Another feature is convicted sex offenders “so you know who you’ve got in your neighborhood,” he said. “It’s all public information that’s on the state Web site. If someone who’s a convicted sex offender moves into your neighborhood, you want to know about it.”

TipSoft lets users submit leads to law enforcement. To protect confidentiality, tips are housed in Canada, out of reach of American laws.

“That’s reassuring for people who want to leave tips,” Parrish said.

Certain incidents won’t show up, such as suicides.

Specifics are kept to a minimum so as to not compromise ongoing investigations.