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?