In what might be the simplest way yet to view crime in Philadelphia, a city worker has developed a interactive website that allows users to pick exact boundaries and get a breakdown of illegal activity.

David Walk, who designs software for the city, said he was intrigued by the Police Department's first-ever digital release last month of more than 600,000 crimes, from theft to burglary to homicide.

"There are so many different crimes. I thought it'd be good if people could easily find crimes in their area," he said of PHL Crime Mapper. "In Center City, there are so many thefts. If you draw (the boundaries) around Macys, there's a crazy amount of thefts. It's in the data, but I'm sure it's lots of small crimes, like stealing a shirt or something."

His application, which is also available on smart phones, is designed for small geographical areas.  Describing its purpose on his website, he said, "I showed this to my friends over the weekend and one of them asked what the objective is.  I don't really have one and I don't know how people will use it specifically.  If they're like me they'll draw a polygon around their house to view the recent crimes in their neighborhood."

But, he said, "the ultimate vision with this is to allow users to select the region they want to know about and get a text or email alert weekly/monthly of all the new crimes in that area. It'll take some time to get there, but I think the app really becomes useful at that point."

Contact Brian X. McCrone at 215-854-2267 or bmccrone@philly.com. Follow @brianxmccrone on Twitter.