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Is the new crime map a help or a hindrance?

Screenshot of crime map of area around Which? HQ in London

The Home Office says the new crime-mapping website is an attempt to increase transparency in crime, policing and justice – but could it end up just increasing sales of alarms and deadbolts?

Thanks to the new Home Office crime-mapping website, I now know I live in Utopia. Not a single crime has been committed in my street. My old neighbourhood, on the other hand, makes 1920’s Chicago look like Toytown.

And if you live in Britain’s most crime-ridden street – Glovers Court in Preston (the location for 150 offences in December alone) – you’ll probably never leave your house again.

Opening up crime information

The new £300,000 website was launched to much fanfare (and numerous technical difficulties) at the start of the month, giving English and Welsh residents the opportunity to look at how much crime has been committed on their street. The Association of Police Authorities (APA) claiming it to be ‘a magnificent achievement’.

‘Crime mapping brings accountability to the armchair for everyone who wants to monitor crime on their street,’ said the APA’s Deputy Chairman Mark Burns Williamson.

Others have argued that the map brings greater levels of transparency and access to more information than was previously available.

None of this is really up for debate. The map obviously lets us know where crime has happened – but to what end? Do armchair-bound people really want to monitor crime on their street?

Does crime mapping stop crime?

There’s no evidence to suggest crime mapping stops crime. It certainly won’t make criminals more wary when choosing their marks and it may lull people into a false sense of security.

Crime can happen anywhere – you just need to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or more precisely, the right place at the wrong time.

On a purely financial basis, the crime map may also have a negative effect on our (already overstretched) budgets. Renters and home buyers may be put off by areas that appear to have a high crime rate and we may find that home insurance rates increase in areas with high burglary rates.

What’s worse is that crime mapping is hardly an exact science. Detractors have noted that there are key flaws in the data.

For example, locations are approximate, meaning that figures aren’t accurate. Data for streets with fewer than 12 houses is apparently not recorded and also the website covers crimes rather than convictions, so what’s recorded may not be a crime at all.

So what really is the point of the crime-mapping site? Is it really a new high point in criminal transparency – or just a blow to homebuyers and sellers across the country?

Comments
Member

I’m not really sure what the point of this website is and even more so how anyone justified its cost in such austere times.

All it does is allow some people to gloat about where they live, and mock others who have crime stats on their streets, whoopedee-doo

What would be far more accountable to the public is a regularly updated table showing offences by seriousness of recorded crime, how many offences were resolved, and how many officers’ man hours are available in that area with an ability to compare areas with similar levels of crime and areas against national benchmarks. i.e. something that shows us how effective policing is in an area.

as it stands, the Crime Map is just an expensive toy.

Member

How true Fat Sam’s comments are I vote for him as chief Constable.
I have lived in this world 60 years and all we got was how hard they ( police ) are working to protect us but most of it is hot air don’t see much of it on the ground.

Member

Totally disagree

A quick check for my immediate area shows NO crime reported – Before CCTV (which we campaigned for) the number of cars stolen or broken into was significant (around daily) – none now – Before Neighbourhood Watch muggings were significant – now zero, This is a very deprived area of East London

Shows that cooperation WITH police has led to a very large reduction of crime locally – So my feeling of safety has been confirmed by the information shown. If no crime police ARE effective!

I would like more details IF there is crime – But the fact there is now none – is USEFUL TO KNOW.

Member

Opps – Neighbourhood Watch reduced burglaries not Muggings – Police patrols reduced muggings. Mind you we have always welcomed the police.

What it will be like with the Condem imposed cuts in police is difficult to tell – But the data base WILL show any detrimental effects of that police cuts and increase in unemployment due to CONDEM imposed cuts.

So a very useful tool to bash the Condems with!.

Member

sorry Richard, are you looking at the same map? I don’t seem to be able to see the part of the map that shows historic data to enable such a comparison with the past to show trends. Can you paste a link?

Thanks.

Member

Sorry no links –

But apparently unlike you – I have been working with the police and Local Council for many years – and have lived in the area for 35 years.so I am aware of the local statistics from the meetings I attend. – We have had monthly meetings to discuss the crime level locally – and why we campaigned to get CCTV installed (that so many seem to think are ineffective and deny human rights) directly they were installed some crimes fell. We negotiated to get a greater police presence (not Bobby on the Beat – a rather ineffectual use of police manpower. When we started the Neighbourhood Watch scheme we had high burglary rates. They fell to zero

I get the impression you don’t attend police or council meetings.

The point is the new Crime maps WILL allow you to determine trends on a monthly basis on a public media – This is far better than NO statistics at all.

I do find it a little ludicrous to complain about a system on the day it is started – Like Labelling it ” an expensive toy” or “a waste of time”

Member

Richard, you are absolutely spot on, I don’t attend police or council meetings. And neither (now I’m guessing) do the vast majority of the public. I applaud you for your involvement (the medal’s on its way) but I don’t think most people fall into that category and have lived in an area for 35 years. Again, I’m guessing that when they built the site that they may have realised this wasn’t their target audience.

I don’t think it’s ludicrous at all to complain about a site and label it as an expensive toy. These sorts of services take months to develop so the creators have had plenty of time to think about it and must have had certain objectives in mind. It would be far more transparent of them to share what those objectives are. Or maybe you can update us from your many meetings with the police.

In its current guise I don’t think the site is that useful and doesn’t offer anything new. Now I’m armed with the information it provides me about my area what am I supposed to do with it? Like most people I do my best to take care of myself and my property. The areas coloured on the map to show rates of crime in my area are so vast (for where I live) that it becomes far from useful. Maybe I’ll just do what most people do – be satisfied that I live in an area of relatively low crime. Well, I didn’t really need this website to tell me that, there are many other reliable sources for that. All this site has done is re-invent something other people have already done, so yes, a waste of good public money. In the current climate, it’s not something we can afford.

What I really want to know is how effective policing is in my area, is it adequate, how does my area compare for conviction rates, is crime rising, is it falling, how do crime rates in my area compare to other parts of the country where the investment in policing is similar or how does investment in policing compare to other areas where crime rates are similar.

OK, I’m caving in. Time to gloat. I live in Gloucestershire. Crime’s low. Fantastic. Whoopedee-doo.

Member
texter9 says:
15 February 2011

what a waste of time, effort and money. More real police doing real policing, not websites showing how poorly served we already are. Mark Burns Williamson is a joke. His comment is typical of the spin an unelected representative of the police authority would trot out. He doesnt serve the public as he is hand in glove with the police. Bring on publicly elected and accountable police commisioners. This cant happen soon enough. I was a serving officer for ten years i should know.

Member
roger weir says:
15 February 2011

Surprised (?) by the negative comment about this, surely any information is better than none and we simply have to try to ensure the quality of the info, as somebody said ‘if you can’t measure it you can’t improve it’, this is just an alternative view of an important issue. That said, I do have sympathy for those now finding themselves living in an apparently measurable ‘high’ crime area, clearly this will impact on the value of their homes, wish there was a way such info could be introduced without this impact but cannot think of it.

Member

Information is only valuable when it’s useful. I’m still scratching my head to find what the objectives of this expensive exercise are.

Member

IT allows you to see what crimes have been committed in your area as a finite number – then next month find if the number increased or decreased – That accurate statistic is very useful to know so that YOU can start to cooperate with the authorities to reduce crime.

We did so with success in our neighbourhood – Others just simply nit – pick and do nothing/

Probably why our crime rate is zero – but you can’t just complain you need to cooperate/ and work at it.

Member

I live in Preston and know Glovers Court. The day the website came out the Chief Constable of Lancashire said that the crimes attributed to Glovers Court, actually were for the whole city centre!

Member

Well I do hope you get in touch with both the Chief Constable and the website to complain about the alleged inaccuracies so they are fixed for next month.

It could be the information was sent as a piece of block data.

Member

Hmm, I was trying to resist the temptation to comment on this one but I’ve caved in!
I have looked at the site briefly and looked up my post code, that of my mother and that of my place of work.
I have to admit that I am impressed by the appearance of the site, but very unsure of the value of it.
For my own post code area the figures look quite feasible, but I know for certain that they cannot be right simply because in the Month of December (for which the figures are shown) I know of 3 people who were burgled in a street where there are zero crimes of any kind shown within 5 streets each side.
However, “teething troubles” could be to blame (I am trying to be very positive here!!)
Overall, though, I feel that of all the comments so far I agree most nearly with FatSam, most particularly in so far as I have some reasonable idea of the likely costs of this project and I cannot for the life of me see how that money would not have been better spent on additional police officers or on crime prevention measures, possibly even including such things as the CCTV that Richard seems to place so much faith in.
Listening to the news I also have a sneaking suspicion that if the predicted effect on house prices is realised then pressure from the housing market may result in revision or discontinuation of this service in order to prevent a further downturn in house prices which would have a knock-on effect on our already depressed economy.
These are my first impressions and thoughts: time will tell whether Richard’s point of view or FatSam’s turn out to be the most accurate, but I am certainly not yet convinced of the value of this “service”.

Member

I agree with roger and richard – I think the crime map is a great idea (although I do agree with a couple of comments about the execution – launching a website is no mean feat and I’m sure they will iron out some of the teething troubles).

The main reason I am keen on it is that I live in a really deprived area, one that people are frequently running down, complaining about the high level of crime, and fretting over. I suspect one of the reasons for this is that things which are very out of the ordinary are overreported in the media to make it seem like certain areas are hell-pits where you’re more likely to get stabbed than smiled at.

A quick check of the crime map shows that crime in my area is actually far far lower than people might think, and I like having the ability to check scaremongering stories against raw statistics. Regardless of how ‘rough’ people think my lovely area is, the chances of me getting mugged on the way home are slim to none.

Member

I agree with this!
In fact the postcode for where I work is also a very deprived area and, surprise, surprise, the crime rate is nothing like what the press suggest.

Member

Well there’s no crime on my street (surprising) despite there being loads on the Isle of Dogs (where my street is located). I think this information is quite useful, just as the website about how noisy an areas’ surroundings are. I may well use the site when I move next, but living in London I doubt I’ll find somewhere crime free.