ST. PETE BEACH — Information about crimes in the city is now just a click or e-mail alert away.
On Tuesday, the City Commission approved spending $1,188 from the city's crime forfeiture fund for a year's membership in a new Web-based crime reporting service.
The city is now the third in Pinellas County to publish its crime statistics, pinpointed by Google maps, on CrimeReports.com. St. Petersburg and Gulfport are linked to the site as well.
"The bad guys are paying for it. I love that idea," police Chief David Romine said Thursday. "I don't see a downside to this."
He hopes the online crime reports will both better inform residents and encourage them to call the Police Department with information about criminal activity.
"We need to have partnerships with people in the community who have a vested interest in knowing what is going on in their neighborhoods," said Romine. "This is a small community. People are not usually shy about calling the police chief."
The city's crime reports will be live within 24 hours, said Dan O'Connor, administrative services supervisor for the St. Pete Beach Police Department.
For the past month, the city's computers linked with the Web site on a trial basis. Ongoing crime reports are being added to the nearly 100 February crime reports available for public searching.
O'Connor said residents can easily navigate through maps with icons that identify the type of crime, the location and the date it occurred.
The site also allows visitors to get crime trends by area, listing incidents by type, frequency and location. Crime categories include assault, burglary, homicide, robbery, sex offenses, theft, vehicle burglaries and thefts, vehicle recoveries, major traffic incidents and "quality of life" incidents.
User-defined graphs and pie charts break down crimes by type and percentage.
"Quality-of-life reports are basically anything that makes you mad — noise complaints, nuisance calls, disorderly conduct, traffic issues," O'Connor said.
CrimeReports describes itself as the largest online resource for accurate, up-to-date crime information. The service works with about 700 police agencies in all but four states.
The Web site also allows visitors to sign up for e-mail alerts and offers a free iPhone app.
The information provided is basic, Romine admits, but if residents want more information about a particular crime, they can call the Police Department and make a public records request.
"Information is a good thing. Residents will really be able to see what is going on in their neighborhoods," O'Connor said.
"If people become more aware of burglaries and other crimes, they will be more likely to lock their doors and take precautions."