Police.UK launch


So this week saw the launch of http://police.uk and it being a web mapping site I had to share my thoughts on it. Basically it’s a crime mapping site and provides  crime statistics down to street-level for the whole of the UK.

Most of the news stories this week have been about the fact that the site crashed due to over-user. Some 75,000 hits a minute according to the BBC(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12336381). It’s been the same recently with many other government sites when data is opened up. When the Ordnance Survey (http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/opendata) released their OpenData iniative their site was down for days.

Other stories have been about the anomalies caused by the site which have given rise to incorrect “highest-crime” areas. This could be down to 2 factors:
1. crime stats being aggregated for streets with less than 12 properties
2. crime stats being unrealistic as they’re based on police recorded crime (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/03/crime-map-information-theresa-may). Really the crime information on the site is not as detailed as you’d imagine (despite all the media furore).

The financial cost has been mentioned by many. Rock Kitchen Harris (RKH) were paid £300k for the site. A web mapping geek (not me!) peeved off with the amount the UK Home Office paid has set up an alternative site here http://www.crimesearch.co.uk/ (not as pretty but still effective. Not sure I agree that much with the cost argument in The Register (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/02/04/crime_mapping_police_uk/page1.html). The PR the UK Government got from the launch of police.uk (news all over the UK papers and headline news on BBC, ITV, C4 and others) has surely made the amount the the Home Office paid for the development worth it. The main reason for the site is Government PR surely. The more sensible option (lower-cost) should have been to publish the police data on the http://data.gov.uk/ website. Perhaps there will be a release of ongoing monthly police data site on the data.gov site?

RKH (http://www.rkh.co.uk/) have released an API for the new police.uk site – see http://policeapi2.rkh.co.uk/api/docs/. I’ve signed up to this and will start to publish some custom web maps on this site….watch this space!

Elsewhere around the world there have been crime maps for quite a while, most notably in the US. In the US http://www.spotcrime.com/#90210 has pushpins for crimes in a particular area and the ability to select dates and types of crime. So now we have police.uk. What does it tell us? Is it useful? Who will gain from the site? Let me know what you think below!


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