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Fatal beating of his cat inspires St. Petersburg man to start Web site tracking crime in the city

ST. PETERSBURG — A St. Petersburg man whose cat was brutally beaten last year has created a Web site that helps citizens track crime and police activity in their neighborhood.

Paul Gilchrist, an expert in how search engines rank Web sites, has launched stpetecrimes.com, which features a searchable database of the St. Petersburg Police Department's calls for service.

Viewers can see all calls to police in chronological order, can select calls from specific neighborhoods or request information in other ways.

Gilchrist updates the information weekly. It's public information provided by the police. He eventually wants to add a mapping function and other features.

"I would just like to see people turn to it as a way to know about crime," he said. "This is a resource to help people."

Gilchrist admits, however, that the Web site also serves a personal purpose.

In April 2008, a man beat Gilchrist's cat, Amy, with a stick outside his Historic Kenwood home while Gilchrist was gardening in his back yard. The cat, an 11-year-old Siamese that Gilchrist rescued several years ago from a New York shelter, had to be euthanized later that day.

Witnesses called 911 and said the man who beat Amy was walking a reddish brown dachshund by Gilchrist's home in the 2200 block of Burlington Avenue N. Gilchrist figures she probably hissed at the dog.

But authorities have never found the culprit.

Gilchrist said he hopes his Web site might spark someone's memory of that day. A $4,500 reward is being offered for information that leads to the man's capture.

About 30 to 40 people have visited the Web site daily since it went live in May, Gilchrist said.

Some people think the site is useful, Gilchrist said. Others worry it may give people the wrong impression about crime in the city.

"I think what Paul's doing is phenomenal," said north Kenwood resident Cass Rael, who visits the site every other day.

St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon, however, has his doubts.

Harmon said he objects to the fact that Gilchrist's site is for profit. Harmon said he worries about the accuracy of information, especially relating to sensitive crimes like sexual assaults or child abuse.

Plus, Harmon said, the Police Department has been working on its own Internet project.

The department has signed on to crimereports.com, a Web site used by law enforcement agencies around the country to provide information about crime.

"We've had this in the works since last year," Harmon said. "We'll probably be live within 30 to 45 days."

It will cost the department about $2,600 a year, Harmon said.

The information, which will come from the same data that Gilchrist uses, will be updated a couple of times a day. Crime­reports.com also has a mapping function and allows people to get e-mail alerts.

"I think it's going to do a whole lot more than his currently does, and it's going to be a lot more timely," Harmon said.

Gilchrist brushed off police concerns.

He said he's only made about $30 from the few Google ads on his site, and whatever he puts on the Web site is what police give him.

He said the only changes he makes is to delete the names of the people who make the calls, to protect them from possible retribution.

"My main aim is not to make money," Gilchrist said. "My main reason of course is to publicize Amy's case and provide a service to people."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at (727) 893-8643 or kstanley@sptimes.com.

Fatal beating of his cat inspires St. Petersburg man to start Web site tracking crime in the city 08/12/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 13, 2009 6:27am]
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