This week the city of Chicago released an online database that allows anyone to search for any criminal offense that occurred over the last 10 years. No other database like this exists in the country, as Chicago attempts to crawl out from under their reputation as being secretive and corrupt at even the highest levels of city government.
The database includes information from 2001 to the present. Though it was slated to be up and running by Wednesday, a search at the time of this blog post revealed the initial launch may have been delayed.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has sought to make city government more transparent in an effort to earn the trust of the public. This is just one measure being taken to show the city is willing to share.
Not only will the database release what the criminal offense was, it will also list the address where it occurred, if there was an arrest and the case number, among other things. Though a complete report would be accessible online, this information is far more than any other departments are currently offering in this capacity.
According to MSNBC, Seattle’s database comes the closest to Chicago’s, though some of their information is incomplete. Los Angeles, on the other hand, only offers static reports or compilations of incidents. New York has some historical information online and publishes weekly data but that department has faced criticism for possibly manipulating such data to make it more favorable.
As with everything the city does, this database does have some critics, mostly those who say the online reports should include more details about the crime and the race of the suspects arrested to provide for truly thorough research materials. But others say this level of transparency is truly commendable.
Typically, if you are a member of the press or even conducting an academic study of crime patterns, you have to request this sort of information directly from the department using Freedom of Information Act requests. The city is looking forward to seeing a drop in these requests since much of the information will be available to anyone with Internet access.
For people who were either suspects or victims of these criminal offenses, it doesn’t seem that they have to worry about their personal information being online. No names will be listed in the database.
The stigma of being accused of a crime is embarrassing enough without having it readily available online for anyone to see indefinitely in the future. A criminal defense lawyer in Illinois may be able to help you in minimizing the impact of criminal charges, both legal and personal. If you are charged with a crime, contact us today to discuss how we might be able to help.