ANCHORAGE -

Anchorage Police Department officials say a new publicly available crime map, unveiled Wednesday, can pinpoint problem areas in the municipality by tracking different types of crimes.

Whether it's on APD officers' desktop and vehicle computers or your laptop or phone, the idea behind the new Regional Analysis and Information Sharing system -- known as RAIDS Online -- is for the community to be proactive in fighting crime, instead of waiting for it to happen.

Tracking the city's crime hot spots has been a work in progress for APD. In the past, the department says using delayed data and a limited crime mapping system that could take days to look at has made it tough to figure out trends.  

"That's rear-view mirror stuff -- that's looking and saying what happened last year compared to five years before that," said APD Chief Mark Mew. 

But with the old system out, Mew says the new version gives updates within 24 hours and will help officers predict crime more efficiently.

"We want to have real-time tactical crime analysis," Mew said.

In Mew's view, RAIDS Online is a smarter and more direct way of doing police business, which puts officers in the right place at the right time to stop illegal activity in its tracks.

For instance, over the last two weeks, Downtown Anchorage has the highest density of theft-related crimes, including robberies, burglaries and motor vehicle thefts.

"What we want the patrol officer to do is say, 'What happened since I was here yesterday?' and find out what that change is and get right on it," Mew said.

Another discovery from the data: after Downtown efforts to deter drunk driving after bar-break hours, officers were able to see that those type of incidents moved to the Spenard area, which will help them figure out how to further deter DUIs.

The new tool also offers greater transparency to the public, and APD wants citizens to use RAIDS Online to know what crimes are going on within their neighborhoods. 

Channel 2 ran a search for burglaries, robberies, and thefts in town over a two-week period from April 2 to April 16 using RAIDS Online. Out of 58 reported cases, 35 were listed in the Downtown area -- possible clues that police say the public could help with.

"It gives them the ability to click on these links, and if they know information, they can provide that information to the department," said APD crime analyst Bryan Morberg.

RAIDS Online is freely distributed to police departments, but the costs for implementing it are being paid for from asset forfeitures in legal cases.

You can also sign up for crime email alerts as well as send anonymous tips via RAIDS Online at its website. An iPhone app is also available in the iTunes App Store.