Concerns raised by residents and academics over crime maps launch

Tower Hamlets Crime Map Photo: Metropolitan Police/Google Maps

Residents in Tower Hamets have raised concerns over the accuracy of the new ‘hyperlocal’ crime mapping service launched by police today.

“We don’t know how they are logging or recording our reports,” said Lene Milaar, secretary of the Mile End Residents Association in Tower Hamlets, who noted that incidents they had reported didn’t appear on the map.

“The police have one definition and we may have another,” she said, referring to the practice of categorising certain crimes as ‘incidents’, which are not logged on the map.

The crime maps provide street-by-street information on anti-social behaviour and six categories of crime. They are violent crime, burglary, robbery, vehicle crime, anti-social behaviour and ‘other crime’, which includes sexual offences.

The new website has crashed repeatedly today as people try to access the popular ‘crime maps’ for their areas. Crime statistics for December 2010 are reportedly all that is available.

This meant that Breakspears Road in Brockley was marked out as the 7th-most-burgled street in the country, after a burglary spree last year.

Tower Hamlets recently recorded an increase of 3.5% in the overall level of recorded crime, ending a six-year improvement in the crime rate.

A crime mapping service, already offered reveals ‘above-average’ recorded crime in Tower Hamlets around parts of Whitechapel, Shoreditch and Heron Quays. The rest of the borough is listed as having ‘average’ levels of crime.

The new map, which allows you to zoom in to an area the size of a street or a few houses, has faced criticism from some quarters.

“I’m suspicious of the spatialistion of crime,” said Prof Les Back, a lecturer in sociology at Goldsmiths. “Instances of crime can be mapped, but criminality can’t.”

Already a flaw has emerged in the leafy town of Haywards Heath, where one road recorded a sky-high 148 anti-social behaviour incidents. It was traced to the way hoax calls are recorded centrally at the local police station.

Similarly, instances of domestic violence, where an assailant commits chronic abuses toward their partner or family won’t be indicative of the danger of assault in a wider context, because they are regarded as ‘other crimes’.

Dr Back suggested that they way maps were divided up may “produce fear and danger rather than reflecting risk.”

Policing and Crime Minister Nick Herbert called the website “an important step forward in accountability and transparency,” and said in an interview with the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, that it would enable “people to hold the police to account”.

David Dalby a Director from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors expressed his concerns over the map’s implications for the housing market. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph he said that “taken out of context these crime statistics could have an effect on house prices”.

A Home Office representative told ELL today that “on house prices, the government believes it’s not the maps that have the impact, it is the crime.”

One Response

  1. Mark Taylor February 2, 2011

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