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How Mean is Your Street? Police Crime-mapping Website Gets an Upgrade

Posted on the 28 October 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
How mean is your street? Police crime-mapping website gets an upgrade

How safe is your street? Photocredit: Brandon Anderson

In February, the website was launched, and garnered a huge amount of interest from the public and media. The website aims to show street-level crime data, so people can identify where and when crime occurs, letting them access information about crimes on their street. Since its launch the site has been accessed 430 million times, as people prove very interested in finding out just how safe their streets are. Now the site, which previously only covered incidences of burglaries, robberies, car crime, violent behavior and antisocial behaviour, has been extended to show cases of “public disorder, shoplifting, criminal damage and drugs offences”, reported the Associated Press. It also allows visitors to easily compare the performance of their local forces compared to that in other areas, and plans to extend the site even further mean that from May you will be able to track each crime’s process through the legal system.

But fears remain that the maps may be inaccurate, may unfairly represent certain areas, and could be used as a tool for political gain.

Skewing resources. Talking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, criminology professor Marion Fitzgerald was far from complimentary of the site. It is of use only to “obsessives”, “journalists” and people with political agendas. She said that after the initial surge in traffic, the novelty of the site wore off, and the public has found little use it. Furthermore, with new police commissioners to be elected from next year, she feared that the demand for resources would be dangerously “skewed” towards areas represented as hotspots on the maps.

“The danger is that with cuts to police budgets, police commissioners with the power to hire and fire police chiefs, this is really going to skew police resources in a political way”, said Fitzgerald.

 Holding police accountable. Policing minister Nick Herbert countered on the same programme that interest has in fact been maintained even after the initial surge, with 2 million hits on the site per month, and said that “since you can’t choose your police”, there must be a way to hold them “to account.” He dismissed the criticism that the summer’s riots are not shown on the maps as “exceptional” – the site is designed to give information about “day-to-day” crime.

A good thing. The extension of the site was welcomed by charity Victim Support, who said the maps will “be a good thing to help increase confidence”, although they suggested the site “should also incorporate more real time data and maybe allow the public to add unreported crimes”. Labour politicians couldn’t resist the temptation to take a swipe at the Conservatives, with MP David Hanson tweeting “Glad police minister supporting labours crime maps showing crime levels -could extend it to show where 16000 police officers being lost?”

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