TAMPA — Nosy neighbors, rejoice.
No need for driveway gossip. Residents of unincorporated Hillsborough County can now track crime in their neighborhoods with an interactive map available on the Sheriff's Office website.
Search by ZIP code and time period and watch little dots fill the screen, marking reports of crimes such as assault or burglary. Scroll over the dots for more information.
Visitors can even click on a link to leave a tip.
"The more the public is aware, the more they can help us reduce crime," said sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon.
It'll be a great tool for Neighborhood Watch groups, said Kenneth Atkison, secretary of the Hillsborough County Neighborhood Watch Association.
Coordinators will be able to include the data in newsletters and warn residents about trends.
Say there's been an increase in burglaries, Atkison said. Block captains can remind their neighbors to close garage doors and keep valuables out of cars, he said.
"It's beautiful," he said. "I think it's going to be really helpful."
The department's in-house information technology team has been working on the program since summer, said sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway.
It was a priority because the agency regularly gets calls from residents who want to know what's going on in their neighborhoods, he said. Now, all that information is available online.
Currently, there's about a 24-hour posting delay, but the agency hopes to refine the site and reduce the lag time to a few hours, Callaway said.
Victim names are not included and addresses are generalized by block for privacy reasons.
The city of Tampa does not offer the program, although a list of calls for service is available online and an older program maps the number of crime incidents by police grids.
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.