National crime map 'will not help police on beat'

Read it on the Yorkshire Post

By Rob Preece Crime Correspondent

A HIGH-profile nationwide crime map designed to show people how many offences are committed in their local area is flawed because it lacks detail and will not help bobbies on the beat, senior Yorkshire police figures have warned.

Ministers say the new map, to be launched by the Government within weeks, will collate data from every police force in the UK to show internet users the country's crime hot spots.

But the head of a Yorkshire police authority believes the project will be of little use to neighbourhood policing officers and will not give members of public the detailed service they want.

Rank-and-file police are also sceptical, claiming the money committed to the scheme would have been better spent on providing more officers on the front line.

And a Yorkshire MP has said the map will only amount to an "act of gesture politics" unless it is detailed enough to be useful to police and the public.

The map, being prepared by the Home Office in conjunction with the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) and the Association of Chief Police Officers, is due to be unveiled this autumn, although the launch date has not been finalised.

It will divide the country into bands like isobars on a weather chart, showing whether areas have high, average or low levels of crime.

West Yorkshire Police Authority chief executive Fraser Sampson said it would lack the precision of the www.beatcrime.info website, which for five years has provided street-by-street crime statistics for West Yorkshire.

"The new website does not do anything like as much as the West Yorkshire site does now and we want ours to do a lot more," he added.

The NPIA has set aside more than £2.5m this year for "citizen focus" and neighbourhood policing, including crime mapping.

The Police Federation's West Yorkshire branch chairman Michael Downes said: "I would question whether collating statistics to create a map on a website is an appropriate use of public funds, rather than using that money towards officers at the front end who are a delivering a service to the public."

Conservative MP for Shipley Philip Davies said he was "absolutely in favour" of the new crime map.

But he added: "It would be deeply concerning if the police forces were concerned about the national scheme not being detailed enough.

"That would be a waste of everybody's time, effort and money and, if it is not detailed and meaningful, it is just an act of gesture politics."