Crime maps to show offences for every street in Britain

Posted on 10:36 PM by Sameer Shah

Residents are to be given access to Google-style internet maps of actual streets identifying assaults, muggings and burglaries in towns and villages across England and Wales, under Home Office plans.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, unveiled the scheme to give householders details of every crime that has taken place in every neighbourhood.

They will show how close the offences carried out were to schools, pubs and cash points.

She said it would enable local residents to hold police to account and to demand action to tackle crime hotspots or deal with outbreaks of disorder.

All police forces in England and Wales will publish the crime maps by the end of the year, Miss Smith said. They will be updated every month.

However, there is still confusion amongst some forces over the level of detail that can be published amid concerns it could breach crime victims' right to privacy.

There are also concerns that publishing details of neighbourhood crime could affect house prices or that burglars could use the websites as a tool to target as yet untroubled neighbourhoods.

Police forces in the UK already compile similar maps of street robbery, youth and knife crime but have never published them for fear that neighbourhoods would be "stigmatised" and that the known hotspots for crime would become "ghettos".

They are also thought to have resisted making them publicly available over concerns it might encourage people to report more crimes, thereby driving up the number of recorded offences.

The Home Office said that the new maps would be presented in a "meaningful way".

They will show which schools are in crime-ridden areas, which streets are blighted by burglars and where it is safest to park a car on the street.

Users will also be able to identify crime trends such as whether drug dealing hotspots are linked to a specific phone box or railway station.

At present four forces are publishing online crime maps.

In West Yorkshire, one of the leading forces in the scheme, categories include anti-social behaviour and "youth nuisance" - such as street drinking, skateboarding, shouting & swearing, letting off fireworks, climbing on buildings, false 999 calls, graffiti and dropping litter.

Offences are identified using dots on maps.

In the West Midlands, householders can enter their postcodes and zoom into the map to a street level, where the different crime types would be represented in coloured zones, showing levels of monthly crime and how much they have increased in the past 12 months.

The Tories accused the Government of "stealing" a policy they had announced in April.

During his successful campaign to be London Mayor, Boris Johnson suggested a similar scheme for the capital.

The Conservatives also said that the crime maps themselves were of little use unless residents could use them to hold police directly to account in neighbourhood meetings.

There are also concerns that police may not be able to react to residents' concerns because of government targets which encourage them to pursue certain crimes at the expense of others, regardless of public complaints.

Dominic Grieve, shadow home secretary, said: "Our proposals detailed in April will go much further by setting up quarterly beat meetings - along with directly elected commissioners - to restore real local accountability to policing."

Meanwhile property experts warned that the with the housing market at its lowest ebb for over a decade, publication of such detailed information about local crimes "could wipe thousands of pounds off of house prices over night".

James Scott-Lee, a spokesman for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, said the effect of the crime maps would be "not too dissimilar to school and hospital league tables".

He added: "In the current economic climate, publicising high crime areas in such detail could literally wipe thousands of pounds off of house prices over night further disadvantaging those who are already struggling to make ends meet."

The Council of Mortgage Lenders said it was concerned that the information could create alarm among housebuyers if a town or borough had higher than average crime levels.

Sue Anderson, a spokesman, said: "We would be concerned about inappropriate knee jerk consumer reaction or publicity."

The idea of crime mapping comes from America - where police departments in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles show crimes down to a house-to-house level.

Officials and police are still discussing the level of detail that can be published after the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, said that he had concerns that the maps could breach data protection laws and the privacy of victims in some cases.

Miss Smith announced the move on a visit to Brierley Police Station in the West Midlands to see a demonstration of local crime maps in action. The force website - - gives the details of eleven categories of crime – ranging from burglary and vehicle theft to assaults, wounding and robbery.

The Home Secretary said: "The public are the best weapon for fighting crime. By rolling out up-to-date, interactive crime maps we can better inform people about crime problems in their area and enable them to have much more of a say in what their local police focus on. This will help increase public confidence in the police and make communities safer."

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