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Hernando crime watch is a click away

Donna Wood of the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office unveils an interactive crime-mapping program, one of a few in the nation.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Donna Wood of the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office unveils an interactive crime-mapping program, one of a few in the nation.

BROOKSVILLE — With only a computer and a good Internet connection, a month's worth of crime data from Hernando County will be at the fingertips of anyone interested enough to check it out.

Think of it as an interactive online version of a neighborhood watch.

The Hernando County Sheriff's Office announced Monday the launch of a new crime-mapping program, said to be the first of its kind in Florida and one of just a few in use elsewhere around the country.

The mapping technology uses Google Maps and other geographic software to enhance the viewing of reported crime in unincorporated areas of Hernando.

"Anyone with a computer can utilize this technology," said Sgt. Donna Black, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office.

The crime data can be accessed through the Sheriff's Office Web site at hernandosheriff.org, where a link to the mapping site can be found. The site has the ability to show reported crime — with the exception of some privacy-sensitive incidents such as child abuse and sexual assault cases — from the past 30 days.

Money for the $250-a-month program fee will come from drug money seized by the Sheriff's Office, known as Federal Forfeiture Funds.

"The money will not come from the taxpayers," Sheriff Richard Nugent said. "In essence, the criminals will be paying to catch criminals."

The Hernando Sheriff's Office joins police departments in Oakland, Calif., Lincoln, Neb., Duluth, Minn., and High Point, N.C., in using the program.

Lee Hunt, a crime analyst with the High Point Police Department, said the site has made it easier for residents to police their own neighborhoods, among other positive developments. "It was been very, very successful." Hunt said the agency has been using the program for about two years. "We average well over 1,000 individual queries a day" on the Web site.

For now, the Sheriff's Office crime-mapping site will generally not include reported crimes within the city limits of Brooksville — the Hernando County seat — because the city's Police Department has its own record-keeping system. Brooksville police Chief George Turner said his department was already working on plans to roll out a revamped Web site in the coming months.

"We want to make it more user-friendly for the public," Turner said.

But Turner, who logged onto the Sheriff Office's new site for the first time Monday, said he was particularly impressed with the program.

"This looks like a great program … I'm all for it," Turner said. "But their record management system and mine are not compatible at the moment and I don't have any intention of changing that. Our system serves us very well right now."

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or 754-6120.

Hernando crime watch is a click away 07/07/08 [Last modified: Thursday, July 10, 2008 6:26pm]

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