Posts Tagged ‘crimedata_guardian’

Met keeps crime statistics under lock and key

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

From The Guardian, Thursday July 17, 2008
Met keeps crime statistics under lock and key
By Heather Brooke

The UK is one of the most watched societies in the world, yet the police are loath to release crime data

We may finally be let into the great secret of just how safe – or unsafe – we are as momentum builds to publish a breakdown of criminal incidents in London, though the battle is far from over. The Metropolitan Police plans to publish some data as early as next month. However, initial indications are that only property crimes (not violent crime) will be revealed, and that the data will be aggregated into large, artificial geographic regions called “super-output” areas.

I’ve long campaigned for the release of criminal incident data broken down by street, having lived in the US where it was easily available. I worked as a crime reporter, and not only were anonymised crime incidents published weekly in the local newspaper (and now online), but as a reporter I could go through individual incident reports down at the station.

Knowing what crimes happen and where is important for several reasons. First, people want to know how safe (or unsafe) they are. They need accurate and detailed data if they are to form an opinion of the safety of their neighbourhood. When they know what’s happening, they are in a better position to help or support the police. They are also better able to hold the police to account. This is perhaps what the police fear most, but it is a misplaced fear according to Richard Pope, the creator of civic website (a site that mines planning applications to local authorities and provides alerts by postcode) and

“The police are coming at this the wrong way,” Pope says. “They’re scared that people are going to use it against them, but it could really help the police.” A few years ago he had the idea of building a civic website using crime data mapped out and accompanied by a discussion forum where neighbours could talk about problems in their area and liaise with their local police officer. “But we couldn’t get any raw data,” he says, so the project never got off the ground.

It seems ludicrous that, sitting in my flat in London, I can look online to see what’s happening on a street in Chicago and yet know nothing about what’s happening outside my front door. However Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, has said that releasing crime data from the grip of the police into the hands of the public would violate victims’ privacy.