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Beverly Hills

January 23, 2013

Group works to bring Crimedar to village

By Robin Ruehlen
C & G Staff Writer

BEVERLY HILLS — Although 54-year-old Tony Lott has no plans to run for office in the village, the former council candidate said he wants to help improve the community.

Lott, a 30-year resident, has turned his former campaign website into a new project: Trust & Transparency For the Village of Beverly Hills, www.trustand transparency.net.

“We are an independent group of concerned citizens with a vision of trust and transparency for the village,” the site reads. “Trust, Transparency and Accountability are much more than words, it is our pledge to every villager.”

Although the site is still undergoing changes, Lott said he plans to post information about village meetings, meeting minutes, videos and other documents that might be of interest to residents.

“There are about 20 of us involved, and we’re trying to expand it and make it a place that people can go on a regular basis for information and documents,” he said.

“We’re trying to do the legwork for villagers.”

The site’s first “Transparency Issue” was posted Dec. 31, 2012, and addressed the method information on village crime statistics is distributed. Lott said the crime reports that are published by the Department of Public Safety are “two weeks behind and lacking in needed detail,” and he instead suggested the village adopt the Royal Oak-based data service Crimedar.

Crimedar provides interactive custom crime maps for municipalities throughout the country and allows residents to be informed of the location of criminal activity, as well as report it 24 hours a day. Seventeen police departments throughout Michigan currently use the service, including Birmingham, Bloomfield Township, the Macomb County Sheriff’s Department, Shelby Township and Troy.

“We’ve talked to the folks at Crimedar, and they’re very nice. They said it would cost about $365 for a village the size of Beverly Hills,” Lott said.

“It’s seamless, it’s easy and it doesn’t take up anyone’s time at the police department.”

Lott and his supporters have already raised the necessary funds to start the service, and he hopes the issue will be on an upcoming council agenda for consideration.

“There seems to be a mindset here that, if people don’t know about where the crime is, it just isn’t happening,” he said.

Beverly Hills Public Safety Director Richard Torongeau wrote in an email that he has contacted the owner/operator of Crimedar and has planned a meeting for this week.  Torongeau noted that crime information is available on his department’s website and is included with notes to council at each regular meeting.

Councilman Walter Briggs said in an email on Monday that council continues to investigate the use of Crimedar, and he pointed out that the village already provides information on incidents and activities via email and/or text messaging through GovDelivery. 

“Based on feedback from the city of Birmingham, the council understands that this can provide another channel to keep residents informed about incidents in the village,” Briggs said.

“We also learned from Birmingham that in addition to the $300 per-year cost of the service, they have one individual assigned to update Crimedar on a timely basis. Crimedar may require hiring an additional employee or eliminating other duties in the Public Safety Department.”

Briggs added that he disagrees with the idea that the village is lacking in transparency.

“I heard this concern expressed when I first ran for council in 2008 and have learned, since being elected, that Beverly Hills is one of the most open local governments in the area,” he wrote.

“In some cases, such as litigation, labor negotiations and managers’ reviews, the council has closed meetings as allowed by the law, but does provide a summary of these meetings when appropriate.”

Briggs added that he has been an advocate for sharing “as much information as possible without overburdening our administration,” and spearheaded the Communications Committee in early 2011.

“The committee has approved our communications strategy, is now providing input to improve our website, and will be working with administration and council to continue to make more information available in a more understandable format to our residents,” he wrote.

Lott said he hopes his website will effectively unite all sections of the village and, in the end, make it a more cohesive community.

“I’m a concerned citizen, and I’m not just going to go away,” he said.

“I’m not here to single anyone out, but to be an agent of change. I want to challenge myself.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robin Ruehlen at rruehlen@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1105.