Thursday 10 February 2011

In the thick of it

I’m living in the midst of a criminal community. That is, if you believe the statistics that I’ve just seen on my local crime and policing website. This is the website that claims to provide us with helpful information about crime and policing in your area.

Oh no it doesn’t. It’s not helpful at all – it’s just giving me nightmares.

Having entered my postcode into the search engine, I’ve pulled up a horrific report which purports to be reports of local street-level crime and anti social behaviour in December 2010, grouped by crime types. To protect privacy, individual addresses are not pinpointed on the map. Crimes are mapped to an anonymous point on or near the road where they occurred. But, given that the report lists some 1,250 reports in December alone, surely the occupants of almost every property in the area (other than me) must have popped down to our local nick to report something or other. You name it, they've done it. 123 burglaries; 43 robberies, 551 acts of anti-social behaviour; 108 reports of vehicle crime; 159 violent crimes and 260 others.

Can this really be the case? I mean, this is Crouch End – not the Wild West.

Yes, I hear the police helicopter somewhere close occasionally, but I thought the pilot must just have been showing off to his kids, or popping over to tell them to go to bed and to stay in bed.

This is serious. At this rate, I’m going to need to install panic alarms.

Then I punched in the postcode of the Information Commissioner's Office (SK9 5AF), in an attempt to see what sort of stuff goes on in Wilmslow. I didn't feel any better. I don't feel particularly safe leaving the car on the streets up there - yet the equivalent statistic for that area is a mere 66 recorded crimes.

If anyone reading this blog lives in an (allegedly) even more crime infested neighbourhood than me, I would love to know. Not so that I can sympathise with them. Just so that I can feel better about my own predicament.

I then thought I should compare these statistics with that of another area I know well, which is where my parents live. They obviously live in a much safer part of the country – their community boasts the grand total of 4 reports. One was for anti-social behaviour (they still haven’t moved that skip, you know) while none of the other 3 reports related to burglary, robbery, vehicle crime or violent crime.

I’ve been racking my brains trying to work out who these other miscreants might have been and what they might have been up to. I know that a couple of parishioners were a bit late for the Kingsdown Carol Service, and a few days later one old boy appeared in the bar of the local golf club without his tie (apparently a seagull had just scored a direct hit on it), but even so. That’s about as crime ridden as it gets, down there. If those monthly crime statistics were ever to reach double figures, I guess they’ll have to start thinking about locking their front doors.

I do like the disclaimer (in pretty small, light grey, print) at the foot of the crime statistics screen: The information and statistics displayed on this site are for information purposes only and may be subject to change. The location of incidents shown is approximated and indicative only. This is to protect the anonymity of individuals.

Perhaps someone should have read the ICO’s recently published guidance on crime mapping more carefully: The privacy impact of crime-mapping depends on a number of variables. It should not be assumed therefore that restricting the number of properties shown, for example, can always guarantee an appropriate level of privacy.

Some privacy they’re giving to the miscreants living in Kingdsown. Hey ho. But when you live in an area like that, you know everyone’s business anyway.