A new crime-mapping website for England and Wales is experiencing a “temporary problem” as millions of people log on every hour, the Home Office has said. Hundreds have contacted the BBC website to report problems accessing the site as officials worked to fix the glitch. The Home Office said www.police.uk was receiving up to five million hits an hour, or some 75,000 a minute. The site allows you to see the offences reported in your local street by entering a street name or postcode. Home Secretary Theresa May said the maps would give real facts on crime and anti-social behaviour and make police more accountable.
In a message on the microblogging website Twitter, the Home Office said: “Hugely popular streetlevel crime maps getting 75,000 hits per minute so you might experience delays. Keep trying.” But some users have reported seeing only a blank page when visiting the website, or a message saying “no police area is associated with this address” when entering a postcode or street. Others have complained of errors in the actual information shown, with some “quiet streets” next to commercial centres, bars and clubs being tarred with their crimes.
A spokesman for charity Victim Support said it was important that victims of crime had consented as to whether information about their incident was released. Meanwhile, Mrs May said she expected the public reaction to be positive and denied the information could increase fear or drive down house prices in some areas. Visitors to www.police.uk, which cost £300,000 to develop, will be able to find out which crimes have taken place on or near their street within the past month and which officers are responsible for their area. Information on crime is broken 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. Local police appeals and details of police community meetings will also be published alongside the maps.
The Association of Police Authorities said the website was a “magnificent achievement”. Deputy chairman Mark Burns Williamson said: “Crime mapping brings accountability to the armchair for everyone who wants to monitor crime on their street.” According to the maps, streets in Preston, Swansea and the Lakeside Shopping Centre in Essex, are among the most crime-ridden places in England and Wales, each with more than 100 reported crimes in December. But streets with fewer than 12 houses are only included in a wider geographic area to prevent identification of victims. Police in Preston say that explains why Glovers Court in the city has been branded the most crime-ridden location in England and Wales even though only three crimes were reported in the street itself. The inclusion of a “quiet street” in Hampshire as one of the most crime-ridden has also been criticised by Portsmouth City Council. The crime maps show Surrey Street in Portsmouth, as having 136 crimes, including burglary, violence and anti-social behaviour in December. The street, which is less than 100m long, is only home to a pub, a car park and a block of flats.
Councillor Eleanor Scott, who is responsible for community safety at Portsmouth City Council, said: “If Portsmouth is anything to go by, this website is a complete farce, it’s identifying wrong crime epicentres and missing out crimes in other areas so you can’t rely on it.” Ch Supt Nigel Hindle, commander of Portsmouth police, said the postcode of Surrey Street was used to record incidents of retail crime such as shoplifting from the adjacent commercial centre and violent crime from nearby bars and clubs. In London, the most crime-ridden street appears to be Camborne Close in Hillingdon, which is – in fact – at Heathrow Airport. – BBC