Free Our Data: the blog

A Guardian Technology campaign for free public access to data about the UK and its citizens


Home Office responds re OS and crime maps

I asked the Home Office yesterday whether the home secretary Jacqui Smith was still standing by her pledge that all police forces would have crime mapping by the end of the year, in the light of the fact that OS claims that plotting any data on a Google (or Microsoft or Yahoo or Ask..) map which is “derived” from an OS map breaks its licence.

The Home Office reply in full:

“Crime mapping is being delivered through ACPO as part of the Policing Pledge. We have been aware of this issue for some time and have worked with ACPO to ensure that forces remain on track to publish crime maps as part of the Policing Pledge by the end of the year”.

I’m intrigued by that “aware… for some time” bit. Because it seems to me that time is running out to hit that target.

Looking, for example, at the site for the county where I live, Essex, the crime figures and statistics page shows a tiny map of the county, and then simply gives you a listing of crimes (if you can figure out where you live; good luck with that if you’re near a boundary, because the map can’t be expanded) in the wards.

To have a crime map by the end of the year will mean changing that all over to something plotted within, let’s be generous, 20-odd working days (unless the Essex coders are going to work over Christmas). Four working weeks.

I may be a pessimist, but unless there’s a radical change in how OS interprets its licensing – or in how OS data gets licensed – I don’t see that happening. The argument about licensing remains. And commenters have previously noted their frustration over the OS licence, which prevents them getting anything done.

Is there a list of the UK police forces, and can anyone find any others that have introduced crime mapping apart from the Met (illicitly), West Yorkshire and West Midlands?

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