Profile: Postacrime.com

Neighborhood watch, magnified online

Founders

Erika Schultz / Seattle Times
FOUNDERS:
From left, David Stone, Ben Sharpe, Adam Phillabaum and Greg Isom run
Postacrime.com from the Seattle area. Local police have reservations
about their approach.
Businesses hit by crime join a website to share video and other details. Some police have reservations about the approach.
By Lynn Marshall, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

October 15, 2007

SEATTLE — Crime may not pay, but the founders of a new website that
gathers and reports petty crimes hope it could pay off in deterrence,
as well as prove a lucrative investment.

Postacrime.com, launched in June, reports the thefts and vandalism that can be a plague for small businesses.

So far, more than 20 businesses have registered as members.

The four founding partners, Ben Sharpe, David Stone, Adam Phillabaum
and Greg Isom, meet weekly. Sharpe and Phillabaum are the technical
team; Stone and Isom have backgrounds in business security.

All four have other jobs and keep Postacrime.com running in their spare time.

The principals update the postings daily, using public information
released by police departments and the FBI, as well as photos and
videos provided by the victimized businesses. Outside of the Northwest,
cities covered by the website include Washington, Sacramento and San
Antonio.

Businesses and individuals must subscribe to the website in order
to post, but membership is free. The site is supported by advertising.

Site users enter a ZIP Code to see a map and crime reports for the
area. Coverage so far is focused on Bellevue, just east of Seattle.

About 7,000 people visit the site each month. Sharpe admits they’ve had little crime to report.

"It is a place to report, search and, soon, to discuss neighborhood
crime," Sharpe says. "The goal is that our name becomes a deterrent to
criminals."

At least one local police force has reservations.

Greg Grannis, public information officer for the Bellevue police, said
he was concerned about the way the site displayed the information.

The department releases its call logs and basic information from police
reports. But once an incident is investigated, the information from the
police report may end up being different from what the log records.

"An incident might go out on dispatch as a robbery or assault," he
says, "but when the officer’s report is filed, it may turn out it was
something else entirely."

Grannis sees an even larger problem.

"If we are looking at someone for a crime, we may not want their
picture or video posted — it has the potential to tip a suspect to our
interest," he says.

Subscriber Jeff Aranas owns the South Hill Mini-Mart, a gas
station/convenience store in Puyallup, about 40 miles south of Seattle.
He says that he thinks the service has great potential.

"I log on all the time," says Aranas. "I mostly look at this area, and
I have seen stuff like bank robberies that I never saw on the news.
It’s a way that I can literally be on the same page as the business
owners in my neighborhood and we can help each other."

Aranas’ store has been robbed three times in the 11 years he’s owned
it. He says he won’t hesitate to post his information if the store gets
hit again.

Postacrime.com sells stickers that participating businesses can put up
to alert would-be thieves that "All criminal activity will be posted
online at POSTACRIME.COM."

"What I am really hoping," says Aranas, "is that as the website catches
on, some guy who comes in here to rob the place will see the stickers,
and think, ‘Hey, I don’t want this to go online. My mom goes online.’

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