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Met Police put up first version of crime mapping system

Apologies for coming late to this; I’ve been away (and Mike Cross has mislaid his passwords to the blog).

Anyway: the Met Police have made their first version of the much-promised crime mapping system available. It’s at http://maps.met.police.uk/ and says it has been developed “in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police Authority and the Mayor of London”.

And the test version does come with a sort of data health warning:

Please note, that whilst every effort is made to record the details of crime and its location as accurately as possible, there are occasions when victims are unable to provide the actual location of a crime. In these instances, the site will not be able to display all the crime reported to the police.

So we make that, since 5 May 2008 when Boris Johnson came to power promising crime mapping, a total of 101 days to get to a beta implementation. As political fulfilment goes, that’s really not bad.

There are observations and criticism: Simon Dickson is only half-surprised that it’s built on Google Maps, not Ordnance Survey’s OpenSpace (“Here’s a extra-high-profile government mapping application, and they’ve made a conscious – and entirely predictable – decision not to build it using the tool provided by the government’s own mapping agency.”); though Tom Loosemore, writing in his personal capacity, comments that

The biggest missed opportunity is the lack of proper profile for your local coppers (aka your “Safe Neighbourhood Team”). The site should make it dead easy for your to contact them, and challenge/shape their priorities. After all, even coppers work for you…

True, though it’s still early days. My principal criticism is that it simply shows crimes against “average”. If you go for a postcode (the first half, eg SW12 is enough) then you get total figures for an area, but that too isn’t helpful – there’s no idea of whether that covers a large area (is Balham, where I used to live, larger than Wandsworth, which apparently has far more crime yet is still “average”?).

Basically, it’s still keeping the information inside the police station walls, and I don’t think that’s enough. This information doesn’t have to be personalised, but it does need to be localised – in fact, made precise.

Update: there’s a Guardian story which has some quotes from police people involved:

A Met spokesman emphasised that this version of the map is a test phase and will be subject to a technical review.

“The software development will enhance the service that we currently provide regarding the number, rate and geographical location of defined crime types within the capital,” the spokesman said.

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