Asheville, Buncombe crime databases offer access to public records

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Two relatively new online databases, from the Asheville Police Department and Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, offer extensive access to crime reports. Both use a program called Police to Citizen (or P2C) that allows users to look up information on crimes in their neighborhoods and search for alleged and convicted offenders by name.

Buncombe’s P2C has been online for a little more than a year and was recently enhanced to include more thorough information, according to Kim Pruett, Buncombe County’s director of information technology. Asheville’s P2C, implemented in collaboration between Asheville and Buncombe IT staff, was launched in August.

Using an automated system, the databases are stocked with information and reports filed by APD officers and Buncombe deputies in the course of their regular record-keeping duties — so little additional work is required to make the data available online.

“I think it’s fantastic that even a sensitive area like policing has recognized that when a record really is open, automating the distribution of it is a good idea,” said Jonathan Feldman, the city of Asheville’s IT director.

One the one hand, the data shared is public under North Carolina’s open-records law, he said (non-public information, such as the names of minor offenders and certain crime victims, is not shared through P2C). On the other, the costs of manually disseminating those records to interested parties are diminished while enhancing public access.

Navigating the databases can seem complex at first. Here’s a guide to the main options and how to use them. In addition to the features highlighted here, the sites have up-to-date information on missing persons, crime alerts and “most wanted” suspects.

Track daily reports

Both sites offer incident and arrest reports dating back for one year, and allow users to narrow their searches to any date range within that year. The APD’s site also includes reports on motor-vehicle accidents.

To see the most recent reports, click the “Daily Bulletin” tab at the top of any P2C page. That provides access to listings of the day’s incident and arrest reports, along with case numbers that can be used to find more information with the search features described below.

On the APD’s site, there’s also a tab for “Crash Reports” that allows users to search for accident reports, and one for “Arrests” that shows information about the department’s most recent arrestees.

Search by name

P2C search form

The search options for finding an array of crime data in Asheville and Buncombe County.

Click the “Events Search” tab to search for the name of individuals or businesses that are mentioned in the records. Links to any relevant records will be provided at the bottom of the page.

Search by location

Options for searching for the locations of incidents and arrests are also found under the “Events Search” tab.

Users can search by address, street, municipality or all of Buncombe County. There’s also a drop-down menu for searching by scores of “law reporting areas,” which are essentially neighborhoods or otherwise defined local areas.

Make a crime map

Buncombe crime map

A crime map using Buncombe’s P2C that shows arrest and incident reports filed during the first week of October. Click to view full-size image.

Once any of these searches is completed, any responsive records will be listed at the bottom of the page. Below them will be a link that says “Map These Events.”

Clicking that link will open a Google map with the locations noted in the records marked by icons. Clicking on the icons will lead to additional information and links to relevant documents.

The map shown here, for example, was generated by searching Buncombe’s P2C for arrest and incident reports filed during the first week of October.

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About the Author

Jon Elliston

Jon Elliston is the Investigations and Open Government Editor at Carolina Public Press. Contact him at jelliston@carolinapublicpress.org.

One Comment on "Asheville, Buncombe crime databases offer access to public records"

  1. James L. Smith October 22, 2013 at 8:54 am ·

    http://www.carolinapublicpress.org/16866/asheville-buncombe-crime-databases-offer-access-to-public-records

    The above is a discussion of the “transparency” in BCSD’s P2C and APD’s version.

    For these two citizen right-to-know resources the reports must be based on professional reporting, not political gamesmanship.

    Van Duncan’s approach is based on political favoritism and corruption. His gang of deputies in many cases won’t even respond to a property owner’s anxious report of a felonious B&E and larceny. Thus, a call to the sheriff’s office reporting a home ransacked and its copper plumbing gutted by burglars goes unanswered. So why should the citizenry have any trust in it? P2C is a great idea if you have honest law enforcement, but we don’t have that in Buncombe County. Face it. What you have is a public prancer, a social media sheriff operating a gang, and lingering medfordism running the sheriff’s department.

    Just the sheriff’s use of his gang to menace citizens in the courthouse is enough to condemn him. His courtroom officers run court observers out of the courtrooms and violate the open courts guarantees of the North Carolina and U. S. Constitutions. He has deputies follow and shadow critics in the courthouse. A book could be written about his public depravity. It should be.

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