The Oceanside Police Department (OPD) in Southern California recently launched a new crime-mapping tool to boost transparency and communication between police and the community they serve.
The online tool, known as First Watch, allows Oceanside residents to view where crime reports take place around the city to enhance their situational awareness.
The dashboard displays all service calls responded to by OPD officers over the last 12 to 48 hours.
“We’re just happy that there’s another opportunity for our community to arm themselves and prevent crime and hopefully reduce their fear of crime in their area. It activates the community as a whole to be vigilant and to take care of not only themselves but their neighbors,” Captain Sean Marchand said of the public safety tool.
The First Watch tool uses colored location pins on a digital map of the city to visualize OPD service calls.
Incidents are also categorized by type of call — such as disturbances, suspicious activity, welfare checks, assaults, traffic reports, etc. — and given a specific color code for that call.
“We simplify that and put it into plain English so people understand. Then we have a pin map of the city that demonstrates where those calls have happened over the last 12, 24 and 48 hours,” Marchand explained.
Oceanside resident Joseph Peterson said the tool could also give residents a deeper understanding of crime in the city.
“It’s important to know what areas in town are safer and what areas in town have issues, but we will also be able to see if there are some issues encroaching on our specific neighborhood,” Peterson said.
“By being able to see as time goes on, you can say, ‘Oh, there were some car break-ins a few blocks from here. We need to be a little bit more vigilant. We may need to get some outdoor cameras.’ To be aware of the changes as they’re happening is very important,” he continued.
The tool took six months to develop and was funded by the half-cent sales tax revenue, Measure X. The measure was passed in 2018 to increase revenue for public safety, infrastructure and the homeless.
Officials say the data in Smart Watch consists of preliminary information that may not be confirmed.
In addition, crime reports don’t appear on the map until officers have left the scene and the situation has been resolved to ensure officers’ safety.
When the call is resolved, the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system inputs the response information into the dashboard.
“The data is automatically updated, and it provides information on the vast majority of crime categories. In keeping with the department’s policy, confidential information is not included on the maps,” the department told Fox 5.