Online College Crime Reports Fall Short
This fall, students across the country will be able to locate crimes in their area with UCrime.com. The new Web site is a crime report aggregator featuring accurate reports of college-related crimes with online maps pinpointing the crimes’ locations.
UCrime.com is a free service that allows the public to view reported crime activities on and around more than 100 college campuses. Created by Colin Drane and launched on Aug. 4, 2008, UCrime.com is the first crime-reporting Web site created for college students. Featuring most of the major colleges and universities in the United States, the geographically mapped locations of all reported crimes is what sets UCrime apart from regular police statistics and other crime reporting sites.
Each incident report includes the date, time, event type and location of the crime on a map provided by GoogleMaps. Accessible via e-mail, mobile devices and even Facebook, UCrime’s features seem more attractive than UC Irvine’s current emergency information system, the ZotAlert. Commenting on the use of Facebook, Drane expressed his hope to utilize popular Internet resources.
“The social networking features make UCrime particularly useful for students, administrators and security personnel,” Drane said.
However, the majority of the information featured in the crime alerts is based on college media outlets.
Although the Web site claims that all information is compiled from sources such as newspapers, information from police departments, other safety sites such as SpotCrime.com and various other public sources, many of the cited crimes have been found to have no documented reports with local college police departments.
Adding to the inaccuracies are some reporting errors, such as an incident that did not list the location of the crime, but the location of the arrest. Drane admitted that UCrime.com has a rate of error.
“Such errors are rare and can be easily fixed,” Drane said, “but the accuracy level is very, very high.”
However, the Web site’s disclaimer suggests cause for further doubt by stating that “the information has been modified for use from its original source” and that the information is to be used at “one’s own risk.”
Drane also added that the UCrime site is geared more towards reporting capability rather than a crisis alert system.
“There are other systems in place, that universities are paying for, that are more likely to solve the situation,” Drane said.
For instance there are reliable systems offered by campuses to help notify students during crisis situations. Drane also admitted that it is difficult for his Web site to alert all students during an emergency.
When asked about the accuracy of UCrime, UCI Police Department’s police chief Paul Henisey stated that it was inaccurate and had no connection to the UCI Police Department.
“What is on the UCI Police Department’s site has all met state requirements, whereas what UCrime has posted has no set standards as to determining what is accurate,” Henisey said.
Drane explained that UCrime should not be used as a substitute for 911, but to “increase awareness” so that people are more alert as to what is occurring in their neighborhoods and on the campuses. Drane gave a personal example of how a Web site such as UCrime could be helpful when he discussed a past incident in his neighborhood in which drainpipes were being stolen. UCrime would have been beneficial in a situation like his, he said, because it would have been able to inform the residents of the occurrence.
With its attractively illustrated icons, such as animated burglars to indicate burglary, moneybags to indicate theft and handcuffs to show where arrests have been made, the resource shows off the latest in “Web 2.0” technology.
However, if the site’s main intention is to increase awareness, it does not differ much from its sister site SpotCrime.com, from which it branched off.
“SpotCrime is one of, if not the largest, accessible crime databases in the country,” Drane said.
The main difference between the two sites is the map usage in UCrime and its focus on universities and campuses.