The Met Police have taken a big step forward and released a Beta Test of a much awaited Crime Map.
The interface is very simple and easy-to-use, the information is kinda useful in a crime’s going up/down sort of way. At the sub-ward (6 streets or so) level you can see hotspots developing around tube stations. It is a good step forward, but…
It is lacking in detail. The figures are given for burglary, robbery and vehicle crime (although that is quite difficult to spot) and what I remember from the work we did for West Mercia Constabulary back in 2002 was that it is the exact location of crimes that matter. Plotting the exact location shows up patterns that help local residents work with the police to design out crime. In the Met example you see red sub-wards (higher than average crime) amongst the yellow and greens where tube stations lie. I’m assuming it is because of robberies reported as taking place at the Tube station, but it might not be. Having more detail would help that.
I used to live in Covent Garden in one of three blocks of flats. Two of which suffered very few break-ins and a third (where I think John Hemming MP had a flat) whose front doors were not overlooked got burgled more often. It is a small estate and sitting on the resident’s committee I got to hear about this and was able to form the theory. If the crime data were available on a more detailed level then local residents & businesses could work with the police not to find out why crime is high in an area but to help reduce it.
There are privacy issues and a danger such a map could become a blueprint for criminals to follow, but it may be an idea worth looking at in more detail.
(h/t to Tom Watson who’ll be delighted to hear that I was a neighbour of JH)