The Palo Alto Police Department has launched an interactive map to provide the public a snapshot of where officers have responded to calls.
"The map offers enhanced community awareness on police calls for service while protecting personal identifying information and was developed as a better alternative to monitoring police radio scanners," according to a department news release issued Monday.
The map draws from the department's computer-aided dispatch center, showing the general locations of calls from the community. Incidents will reman visible on the map for 24 hours. The map can be found at cityofpaloalto.org/PAPDmap.
Department leaders say the map offers the public the most detailed information online of any police agency in the Bay Area.
"The Palo Alto Police Department is proud to offer this new innovative online calls for service map, providing a rolling, 24-hour snapshot of our officers' good work serving the Palo Alto community," Chief Robert Jonsen said.
The new tool is making its debut about a year after the city encrypted its police radio communications, which prevented members of the media and concerned residents from tracking police activity. The move to encrypt followed a directive from the state Department of Justice, which gave cities the option of either fully encrypting or creating a system in which personal information would be relayed through a secure channel to protect privacy.
Palo Alto was among of the first cities that switched to the full-encryption model, which other neighboring cities adopted as well. The move was criticized by police watchdogs and some City Council members for significantly reducing transparency in the police department.
City Manager Ed Shikada said during Monday's council meeting that the new map provides "near real-time information" on police responses to calls for service. The information, he said, is posted within an hour of the call. He called the new service "groundbreaking."
"This new online map has been eagerly anticipated by many of us for a while," Shikada said.