- I didn't like the version on Fairfax Underground (I wanted better search capabilities).
- I think it's kinda cool to see what's going on in my county at this level.
- I was bored. This is probably the most dominant reason.
- Where did I get this info?
- Why don't my searches work?
- How do I remove myself? I don't want to be on here.
1. Where did I get this info?
Fairfax County posts a weekly (or pretty close to it) list of "arrests" in the county. It's online, and you can view it here.
However, if you look at it yourself, all you see is a big list of boring text. To do any sort of searching, you have to use your browser's search feature (which generally gets you scattered results).
Plus, the list only lasts 1 week, and then the new list is posted. Anything beyond 1 week and you will have to go get the info from the records office at the courthouse. This information never becomes "not public."
So, I made this site. I wrote a small program (a script really) that simply reads that file, and stores the information in a database. Because all the information is split apart and stored efficiently, searching becomes much more powerful.
2. Why don't my searches work?
Well, searching can be tricky. But, when you do it correctly, you can really narrow things down. Below is some information and tips on searching:
- Each text box will be compared with the column it is in. So, the text box under the Last Name header will only be compared with last names. So don't try to type an address in the last name field, it won't get you anything you want.
- Default Search: By default the search will try to match a word exactly, as in you aren't using a wildcard. For example: searching the last name: "jones" will return records where the last name IS EXACTLY "jones" or if "jones" appears by itself, like in "jeremy jones." Because it is an exact search, searching "jone" will not return records for "jones."
- Wildcard Search: There is hope! The wildcard (%) allows you to get creative. Below are examples of how the wildcard works.
- "smith%" will return records like "smith" or "smithers." The name starts with "smith" but the rest of the name can be anything.
- "%well" will return things like "cromwell" or "bidwell. In this case the name will end in "well."
- "%own%" will return things like "browning" or "brown" or "ownen." In this case the name will contain "own" somewhere.
- NOTE: Keep in mind using the wildcard will slow your search. Even more so if you are searching on multiple fields.
- Spaces: If you are trying to search for a space, there are a few ways to go about it.
- No Wildcard: If you simply type the two words with the space in between, the database will try to find entries where the two words exist. This takes care of the space.
- Wildcard: If you don't know the exact name, or you need to get more creative, use wildcards. For example, "jones%owens" would return "jones owens." be aware though, it could also return "jones earl owens."
- NOTE: Again. Using wildcards can slow the search considerably. There are over 1 million records to look at in some cases, when you use the wildcard, the database has to check every single one. If you do not use wildcards, the database can optimize the search and it will generally speed up your search.
- Multiple Fields: You will probably be in a situation where you are searching for a last name and a first name at the same time. This is fine, and it is useful. But if you aren't careful you can screw up your search.
- Too Much Criteria: If you are trying to find someone with a certain last name, but with a middle initial of "a" at the address "123%Sesame%Street%"...You're probably going to have a slow search.
- Furthermore, searching on the middle name field isn't reliable. These records were retrieved exactly as they were posted by the county. They aren't perfect.
- Start off slow. The last name is a good place to start, then maybe the middle initial (READ the next bullet though!), and finally add some of the address, or age, or charge, or whatever...if you have to.
- I mentioned this before, but I will do it again. Wildcards are expensive, they WILL slow the search. To get around this, try to use them as little as possible. If you figured out the last name of the person you are searching, type it in without the wildcard. This will instantly speed up your search. NOW, you can use wildcards again on other fields as you narrow things down. The idea is to restrict the range. Knowing the exact last name (or first name) allows the database to only apply the rest of the search to the other fields, speeding it up. Make sense? Say you search last name "Smith," but age 25. If you use "%Smith%" or something like that, the database has to first search everything to see if "%Smith%" is a match (because you used a wildcard), then it has to go again and check if the age is 25. If you use "Smith" and age 25. The database says oh ok, I KNOW it will be smith, so maybe there are 2,000 smiths, the database can then quickly search through these 2,000 to see if they are 25. Make sense now?
- Inaccuracies: This information isn't perfect. There are typos, sometimes the report placed the middle name or middle initial in the first name field, etc... Using the middle name is generally not going to work, just a heads up. I have no way of knowing if the person has a long first name, or some of it is actually the middle name. It's just how it was published. Sometimes the charge is abbreviated weirdly. A big one is the address, there are quite a few where the address was not entered at all, or has a typo, etc...
- Bottom Line: If this is the only thing you read, then good. The rule-of-thumb is to start slow. Don't search for the last name, first name, age, and address on the first shot, you probably won't find anything, or you'll get limited results. Start with what you really know. Usually this is a last name. So if you know the last name exactly then type it in and search, see what you get. If you don't know it 100%, use the wildcard to search for a partial. The best thing you can do when trying to find a person is to lock in their last name. Then slowly add extra fields to refine the search.
- What if I'm not looking for a person? That's fine, it's actually quite interesting/fun to search for other stuff.
- Age Search: When searching for their age, you have a few options. First-off though, the age is displayed as how old they are thought to be now. If you want to find 20 year-olds. Type 20. If you want to find a range, you can type 20-25, or -25 (for 0-25 basically), or finally 25- (for anyone over 25). Keep in mind there may be a +/- 2 year error in the age, but most of them are spot on.
- Charge Search: If you want to know who got tagged for what, search by charge. Even better, use the drop down charge list...just select what charge to search for and then go for it. Since this is a text field, it could take more time to search, especially if you are using wildcards.
- Address Search: Want to know who got arrested in your house before you moved in!?!? Well maybe you'll find out by doing an address search. I have to mention, the address field is probably the most error prone (they were entered by the county, and some have typos, or just no address at all), but the majority of addresses are there, and they are correct. If you are searching for an address, you will probably need a wildcard. Keep the search basic though. If I wanted to find "123 Sesame Street LN, Springfield VA, 22152" I want to keep it simple. One of the reasons being the same address could have been entered in different ways at different times, maybe one time with the zip code and "LN" and maybe one time it was missing the zip and "LN" So I would search "123%Sesame Street%Springfield%" or something like that. You can also use the wildcard in between 'Sesame' and 'Street' if you are having trouble.
Hopefully that helps. I can't cover every scenario, but try a few times different ways and you'll figure it out.
3. How do I remove myself?
This is where things get touchy. Obviously, there will be some people that don't want to be on here. Maybe their charges were dropped, or it was a long time ago, or they just dont want to be on here.
As I said before, these are charges...none of these records mean someone actually "did it."
Regardless, these records weren't "hacked," I didn't steal them...they were posted, by the county, on a public website. People could have printed the weekly posting and put it in a binder for ages. I could go to the courthouse right now, and get all this information all over again, albeit in document form, but it's the public's right to view this information. Your name never disappears from these charges. If the public wants it, the public can get it.
With that said, I understand most people will not go to the courthouse to access the public records of our great county named after Lord Fairfax. The record being posted here, makes it much more accessible to the public. Either way, I'm not an a$$. I will kindly remove one of your charges, or you altogether from the database. Simply e-mail me (email@example.com) with your name (as it appears on the site) and let me know if you want a charge to disappear...or if you want to disappear altogether.
If you're simply concerned that a record is wrong, but don't care that you are on the site, you can also e-mail me. Of course, include your name and such along with your request.