7th February 2011
Police.uk (www.police.uk) launched last week and users can enter their postcode or street name to find out what kind of crimes, such as burglaries or street robberies, have been committed on their doorstep. The site proved so popular that it crashed almost immediately after launch due to high traffic volumes. There were also complaints that the figures for some areas were incorrect.
The site cost £300,000 to develop and breaks crime information down into six categories – burglary, robbery, vehicle crime, violence, other crime and anti-social behaviour. Sex crimes have been included in the "other" category, along with crimes such as theft and shoplifting, to help prevent victims from being identified.
Home Secretary Theresa May said in a statement: "We want people to be able to see what crime is happening on their street, and to be able to tell their local police if they have concerns, and challenge them about how issues are being dealt with."
The website also gives the names and contact numbers of local PCs and PCSOs so residents know who to contact in the event of a crime.
But it's not just residents that will be checking out their area's crime statistics; house hunters are likely to use the online crime maps too – and could be put off buying property in areas with high crime levels.
Nigel Lewis, property analyst at Findaproperty.com, said that on the face of it, online crime maps are a brilliant idea, but they are also dangerous for the housing market.
"In the same way school catchment areas have skewed property markets around the UK and created 20% uplifts around good schools, so these maps could drive down prices in crime-stricken streets and postcodes," he warned.
Meanwhile the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors said: "Taken out of context these statistics could affect house prices."
The new website was also the subject of debate on the Guardian Money and the BBC websites.
Johnwere commented on the BBC story: "Technical glitches aside this is fantastic forward thinking conservative government at its best. San Francisco, the heart of innovation and liberal thinking, has done something similar and it's to be applauded that we are doing the same. Information is power and I'd rather the public had free access to it rather than restricting that access to the police."
On the Guardian website OReally wrote: "The more information that is available to prospective buyers the better. We wouldn't want estate agents trying to pull the wool over our eyes now would we?"
Other Guardian readers thought crime statistics made little difference to house prices. "There have been some real hum-dingers around my neighbourhood in the last five years or so," wrote Norma Stitz, "Has it affected house prices? Hardly (mind you, we're talking London here)."
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