Last week the UK government announced Police.uk, a site where you can see crime statistics for any neighbourhood in England & Wales. The highlight of the visit of course is the street level Crime Map and the list of the most dangerous streets in your town.
From the homepage type in your town and search. You will be taken to a front page for your local police team where their are profiles of your friendly police staff, the Twitter or Youtube feeds, next open surgery times and contact details. The real appeal of a visit however is the crime map in the top right hand corner. Click that to be taken to the page where you can view the in-depth details of crime in your town for the latest months statistics.
The default crime map view is by type of crime – classed by burglary, antisocial behaviour, violence etc. You can click on each to see the distribution of crime type in your town. I noticed that antisocial behaviour spots seemed to hang around each other. The ‘Streets’ tab lists all the streets where incidents were recorded along with the types of crime. The ‘Neighbourhood’ tab gives general data breakdown and relational details comparing your neighbourhood to the rest of England & Wales.
The new Police crime maps were so popular at launch the servers were unavailable to cope with the demand and many users were left with a blank screen. The Home Office Twitter account reckoned they were receiving 75,000 hits a minute though it seems the hype has died down now so browsing is possible.
Useful or A Waste of Public Money?
Non-web users and many grumpy taxpayers will probably now be asking what the point is of all this. Well, imagine moving house to a new town and deciding on a place to live, the maps do a good job of highlighting where the violent areas are or which streets are being targeted by burglars. In fact I imagine property search sites like Righmove and Zoopla will integrate this crime data into their own sites soon thanks to Police.Uk’s API.
Or perhaps you think the Police aren’t doing enough in your town and aren’t showing an interest. I personally think this site does a great job at highlighting the presence of the police in my town and that I can contact them if needed. I think its real purpose is to get the public more involved in community policing, especially with links to surgeries and help setting up a neighbourhood watch scheme. It is also made easy how to report crime either locally or contacting Crimestoppers.
Do I think this scheme is expensive even though I don’t know how much it costs? YES – it is a government scheme involving outside contractors. Would I want to see it stopped given the state of public services and finances? NO, I really do like it. I’ll admit I won’t be browsing it every month when the maps are updated but I believe it has its uses. The whole site has a great user interface design and navigation is so easy for even the novice web surfer discovering the delights of the web. It passes my ‘I like it’ test.
This service is all thanks to the governments fantastic obsession with open data which I can’t praise highly enough. If only we could trust the Government on such Internet issues as net neutrality, bandwidth caps, freedom of speech and privacy. But for the meantime I have to look for a new house in a safer area.