In the old days people would keep tabs on crime in their community by reading court reports in the paper, talking to their neighbours and perhaps just keeping their eyes open.
From there they could build up a mental picture of the crime going on in their area. They might feel that there was a lot of crime going on or perhaps that they lived in a safe part of town.
A crime mashup
The police of course have a lot of data about reported crime and prosecutions. The UK police have created a mashup so that anyone can get a detailed picture of what’s going on.
To take a look for yourself visit Police UK.
On the opening screen type in an address, for example,
10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA and press the Search button. You might see an alert window asking for clarification if there’s more than one possible place with that address. Click the address you want and wait a moment while the website calls up the next page.
Community focused information
The friendly page you see next shows you information about the team who police that area, with contact details.
Also on that page are relevant YouTube videos, information about community meetings and, most importantly, a map.
Contextual information on a map
Click on the link below the map to see a larger version and many more details about crimes in that area. You see crime data for an individual month divided out into categories such as burglary, antisocial behaviour, violent crime and so on.
On the map are markers coloured according to the type of crime you’ve selected from the list on the left. Click on the map to zoom in.
In the month of January 2011 it’s easy to see that there was no crime immediately adjacent to 10 Downing Street. I guess we’re not surprised. Just around the corner though, in or near Canon Row, there were 5 violent crimes, 22 other crimes, 1 burglary, and 17 instances of antisocial behaviour.
Note: the screenshots show February 2011.
Because of privacy issues crimes aren’t necessarily mapped to the precise location where they took place.
As you zoom in on the map you see more and more detail for where those crimes took place.
It’s pretty obvious to see for example, that in January 2011 most of the violent crimes by far took place just to the northwest of 10 Downing Street — as far as the query was concerned.
The web page also gives you options to view crimes by street or neighbourhood, and gives a handy comparison for the level of crime in that area compared to the rest of England and Wales.
Please can we have maps like this too?
This is an amazing tool. It’s an excellent way for the public to obtain and use this information for themselves. This goes far beyond reading court reports and chatting to the neighbours.
Wouldn’t it be great to see something like this in New Zealand!
Written by Miraz Jordan for, and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, March 2011. This article has been modified for publication here.