A nationwide Web site, CrimeReports.com, which extracts police reports from official databases, posts information in detail and maps it online, is encountering both fans and criticism.

The site lists only the block on which a crime was reported, not the actual address, to protect victims’ privacy, but critics say that the reports provoke paranoia anyway. Founder Greg Whisenant defends the Web site, saying that ease of information makes people cautious — and more likely to leave a porch light on or close a garage door.

Sheriff Jim Winder of Salt Lake County, Utah, whose blotter reports are among those included in the database, says while it’s true that more data doesn’t necessarily equate with knowledge, he thinks the site increases public trust. He calls the site’s ability to make use of his department’s “Byzantine” records system “almost revolutionary.”

“For people to have faith in and continue to be supportive of law enforcement, they need to feel we’re divulging all we possibly can,” he says.

Source: Associated Press, Brian Bergstein (02/04/08)