Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Web Wednesday: UK CrimeMapper

The National Policing Improvement Agency and the UK Home Office have collaborated to create an interactive online map that is available to the public and offers detailed crime statistics in England and Wales. The map allows users to see where and when crime has occurred (some down to the street level), make comparisons with other areas, and learn how crime is being tackled by their local neighborhood policing team.

The map was launched on October 20, 2009. This national map comes after 43 police forces in the UK successfully launched regional crime maps. The regional maps drew a lot of attention, and the national map was even more popular than expected. In fact, the server crashed on the morning of October 20th due to high demand.

Giving the public access to this information is viewed in a positive light by many.  It engages communities in the police force's crime prevention process and it can even encourage people to set up neighborhood watch schemes. However, representatives from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) consider the publication of crime statistics as "sensationalist" and warn that the publishing of this information may have adverse effects on real estate values in high crime areas.

  Map of Recent Crime Activity in England's Shropshire Division

The interactive map is available online and allows you to search for crime statistics by entering a village, town, or postcode, by selecting a police force, or by choosing a district on the map. The map gives you access to information about the trends of crime activity over the past year, and also allows you to see the types of crimes that have been committed in a certain area (crime types include burglary, robbery, vehicle crime, violence, and antisocial behavior). Within a selected area, the map will be divided into sub sections with a light grey representing low crime levels and darker greys indicating higher crime levels. This allows for comparison of crime activity between neighborhoods.  Selecting a police force also gives you access to information about policing priorities.

In addition to highlighting high crime areas and perhaps lowering the real estate value of homes within those areas, some argue that this map also exposes areas of relatively low policing. Giving the public access to policing information could possibly assist criminals in developing more evasive strategies.