New Site Lets You See If Your Boss Got Arrested Last Weekend

But the creator of CourtWatch insists his motivations were far more noble than that.

There are lots of ways to go down the rabbit hole that is the Internet while you’re sitting in your office supposedly working. You can watch billions of kitten videos. You can explore the world of heavy metal-funk mashups. You can educate yourself on Challenger space shuttle conspiracy theories. Or, you can see if your boss was really sick on Monday, or if he woke up in the drunk tank after a major coke-and-booze bender.

CourtWatch is a new site from Christopher Sawyer, the gun-toting Philadelinquency blogger and recent Republican candidate for sheriff.

The site accesses data from Philadelphia’s Municipal Court — the first judicial stop for any criminal defendant, whether charged with DUI, theft, or first-degree murder — and provides a constantly updated list of Philadelphia arrest records. The city used to have a similar website called PhillyRapSheet, but that site is now defunct, and CourtWatch provides far more detail.

So, if you were to have pulled it up on Friday morning, you would have seen that some guy named Richard Lewis Riley was just arrested for possession of marijuana (wait, we thought they decriminalized that?), while Ernest Begun is sitting in jail on an aggravated assault charge in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Sawyer says that CourtWatch isn’t really there for you to spy on your acquaintances and their secret lives of crime.

“It’s meant to help identify patterns in arrest records,” he explains, adding that his neighborhood in Kensington now knows the identities of the burglars that have been arrested for crimes in his area over and over again. “You punch in your police district, and you can see what the arrest history is like and review the cases. For instance, if there was a homicide near you, you can find out within a day or two who the suspect is, in case the local media did a poor job of coverage. Frequently, the neighbors don’t know anything.”

Philadelphia arrest records were already easily available through this government-run website, but for that, you need to punch in a name and other information, whereas CourtWatch gives you a rolling list of all arrests. (CourtWatch only provides Philadelphia arrest records, so for other Pennsylvania arrest records, you’ll have to use that other site.) Think of the thrill you’ll get when you’re sitting there watching CourtWatch and you see the name of that jerk who pantsed you in 7th grade pop up for shoplifting. Who’s the loser now?

CourtWatch also has other handy features, such as letting you click one button to see only homicide arrests or arrests for illegal guns.

Sawyer also offers a fun — well, depending on your definition of fun — Stats section, which currently displays the most popular charges in the last 60 days (drugs, drugs, and more drugs) and other statistics, such as the number of recent gun charges by district (we’re moving to Roxborough!).

But what do you do if your name appears on CourtWatch? Although the information will still be available on that government site, assuming it’s not expunged, Sawyer offers a feature that allows you to make your arrest record go poof from his site after 45 days have transpired since your arrest.

“This isn’t a ‘mugshot’ website,” he says. “Records aren’t held for ransom permanently until the end of days. The value of the record is less worthy to me as it ages. Sites that keep the records and mugshots up forever are not meant for public service but to exploit records and offer ‘removal services’ — basically electronic torture through a database scarlet letter.”

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.