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Friday, August 29, 2008

Mapping crime

Forget Sat Nav systems the 'crime map' is here. The four Welsh police forces are collaborating in a plan to develop the internet-based system in the hope of providing a unified crime map that will provide statistics for crimes including burglary, car crime and robbery. Apparently, they will be detailed enough to include areas as small as sub-wards, which are often just a few streets.

The Police Federation have labeled them as a dangerous “gimmick” and a potential “encyclopedia for criminals”. They say that criminals will gain access to an encyclopaedia of where to go out and commit crime because they know that the police are vulnerable because they don’t have the cover in some areas that they would like to.

Criminologists too have criticised the initiative. They say that the data is misleading. For example, any area with a police station will show up as high crime. They also argue that the maps will distort policing priorities, affect house prices and provide opportunities for crooks.

I have to admit that I am sceptical too. Yes, the data is already publicly available but not in this format. The question is what will the police do after they publish the maps and then find themselves besieged by anxious residents demanding more resources and high profile policing to counter a publicly advertised hotspot? What will the impact be on insurance premiums and house prices? Will these maps become part of the packs that a householder needs to put together before selling their home and will it make a sale more difficult?

All I can see are problems with this plan. It is a PR exercise with no upside. I really do think that the Police need to think through what they are doing and how they will deal with the potential pitfalls before jumping into this Home Office initiative feet-first.
Perhaps we can find out, in person, what Neath police think of the move. There is an open day at the main police station next Sunday.
Peter, Peter, Peter ... while ur spending time on sat nav/old technology ... McCain is about to take the stage with his VEEP! What say u!!!!
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