Amid rising crime rates, the decreased ability of law enforcement agencies to protect citizens and public admissions by local politicians that the state is unsafe, many Georgia residents and civic organizations are demanding better access to information on crime statistics.
Some Seek More Crime Reports
Statistics wanted: Those trying to get information to try to determine trends in neighborhoods can run into obstacles.
By Megan Matteucci, Tim Eberly
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Fred Pangle uses a neighborhood map, Post-it notes and word-of-mouth to track crime statistics in his Rex subdivision.
The handyman said he maps crime for his Amberwood Neighborhood Association because he can’t get enough information from the Clayton County Police Department.
“They say they can’t tell us anything unless you’re the victim,” Pangle said. “Maybe if we had crime statistics, people might come to the realization of how unsafe it is and know what’s really going on.”
Under the Georgia Open Records Act, almost all initial crime incident reports are open to public review. Across the metro area, people get individual reports every day —- mostly for use in traffic cases or incidents in which they were victims.
But amid rising interest in crime rates, residents, civic groups or even reporters trying to determine broader trends in neighborhoods can find that getting information is more complicated.
Several county departments, including Clayton, Cobb and Gwinnett, generally limit access to reports on a specific incident or for a specific address. There is no ready access to incident logs.
“Open records law does not require an agency to allow open inspection of bulk or all reports,” said Cpl. Illana Spellman of Gwinnett County police. “Open records law requires that if a specific report is requested and is open to public disclosure, that the information be released.”
That’s wrong, said Hollie Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. Initial incident and arrest reports, she said, “are the classic public record. All of them are open, immediately and always, for public inspection.”
More at AJC.COM.