All Over the MapSep 15, 2022
I love maps. They give you all sorts of useful information, like the shortest and safest route to get back home when you’ve been away. Because I’m a private investigator, I especially love using crime maps so you can see where certain types of incidents are happening. That’s really helpful for all of us, whether you are deciding on a new place to live or if your child should be allowed to walk by themselves to school, hang out at the mall with friends, or have a part-time job in a certain neighborhood. But crime maps are only reliable when the data used to make them is reliable. FBI crime data has to be reliable, right? Well…it’s complicated.
In 2021, the FBI changed the way it collects crime data. The new program is designed to include more specific information on each incident. So far, so good. But you might be shocked to learn that our country’s 18,000 plus law enforcement agencies AREN’T REQUIRED TO SUBMIT THEIR DATA. Yep, the system that the FBI uses to collect data that is used to develop statistics, trends, and best practices is voluntary.
Our federal government spent a boat load of money to help local agencies with the switch, but over one-third of law enforcement agencies did not send all or part of their crime data to be entered into the system. Some of the biggest offenders? Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. So how is the government going to come up with accurate information to protect its citizens? The reality is that even it’s best efforts will be compromised because they lack the data they need to see the total story crime in America
I’m not trying to bash politicians in particular. There are rotten apples in every barrel, not just theirs. I just want to be sure that as we make decisions as critical as where it’s safest to live, work, and play we know how good the data we are looking at is. This is why I believe in the importance and power of community.
Nationwide trends are interesting and worth studying, but knowing what’s going on in your community is the key. One of the best ways to do that is just by observing your community yourself. Connect with your neighbors and get their impressions of any unusual or troubling activity they see in your area. Check the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website to see if there are any registered sex offenders near you, but be aware that sometimes offenders skip this step hoping authorities won’t notice.
It’s become kind of trendy to blame the police for responding too strongly to criminal threats, and on the other side of the same coin for in some cases not responding at all! I think a better approach is to remember that the vast majority of them want to help people. What a better world we’d have if people who make up the communities would work with the men and women who make up their local law enforcement agencies! Here are 5 easy ways to do that:
- We’ve all done Muffins with Mom or Donuts with Dad at our kids’ schools. Did you know that October 5th this year is National Coffee with a Cop Day? See if your local police have an event scheduled. If not - see if you can coordinate one!
- Ask if there is any way you can volunteer to assist the police in keeping your community safe. Many departments need help with clerical tasks, search and rescue operations, or inventory management. Your local officers may have even more opportunities for you if you ask.
- Attend a Citizens Police Academy so you get a better understanding of what police do and what unique challenges your community faces.
- Follow your local law enforcement department on social media! Be in the know about what is happening where you live. It’s also a great opportunity to post encouraging messages for people who are in a very demanding job.
- Pray for your local officers. Pray that God protects them in this dangerous line of work, that He gives them wisdom to respond correctly in stressful situations, and that they are able to resist the temptations they face every day. Prayer will not only help them, but it will soften our hearts towards a group of fellow human beings that is often criticized no matter what they do.
So let’s end where we began - talking about maps. I like Google Maps, really like Waze, and LOVE Apple Maps. Crime maps are a favorite too, especially now that I know that they are only going to give me back the data that’s been gathered and not everything that actually happened. But the very best “map” I can recommend is one that’s going to give you direction and information for life. You’re a smart bunch, you know I’m talking about the Bible, right?
As Psalm 119:19 says in The Amplified Bible, “I am a stranger on the earth; Do not hide Your commandments from me.” Maps are so necessary when we are away from home. How awesome is it that God shows his love for us in giving us guidelines, a map, for a safe journey back to our home with Him? Tell me what YOU think! [email protected]
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