UK citizens can now gawp at the amount of crime committed around nightclubs, railway stations, parks and other hotspots on a revamped website launched by the Home Office. The same site will also eventually track arrests and charges brought against wrongdoers.
Home Secretary Theresa May announced the new service in a speech on police reform, during which she also talked up a "powerful new crime fighting force" for the country that will be "active in cyber space".
She said: "Increasingly, the biggest criminal losses do not come from the burglar who breaks into houses to steal TVs or DVD players, but from the cyber criminal who raids bank accounts directly. A child can now be at greater risk sat in their bedroom on their computer than they are outside the school gates.
"And given the nature of the criminal threat, it is now no longer possible to keep communities safe through good local policing alone. Highly visible neighbourhood policing is vital, but it won't deal with cyber crime. Arresting drug dealers is important, but it won't stop the flow of drugs from overseas," she added.
That's where the National Crime Agency (NCA) is going to come in. The FBI-like body has been around in one form or another since 2010, but it will become fully operational next year. Its remit is to work across different police forces and agencies for a "coordinated intelligence picture".
"It must bring its own contribution to the fight against serious, organised and complex crime - that means having its own intelligence gathering and investigative capacity; sophisticated technical skills; and a presence internationally, at the border and in cyber space," May said.
Mapping the mayhem
Meanwhile, the Home Office's rejigged crime mapping website for England and Wales shows the number and type of crimes near specific public places, as well as how the cops deal with the illegal activity.
"Tomorrow we'll launch the next stage of crime mapping, in which we'll start to map crimes to or near a range of public places like railway stations, nightclubs, parks and shopping areas," the Home Secretary said.
"By May, crime maps will show the public what happens after a crime has occurred - what action the police took and what the criminal justice outcome was. You'll be able to see if the criminal was arrested, charged and sent to prison."
She envisions the British public using this information to hold their local police to account for their performance when they attend neighbourhood beat meetings.
"That will help drive up local policing standards and help drive down local crime," she said optimistically.
Deputy Chief Constable Neil Rhodes of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said in a canned statement that the crime mapping site helped to reduce the fear of crime, adding: "And in areas where crime is occurring, [the site] provides encouragement to the public to support the police with information and remain watchful when appropriate."
The website was first launched in January last year, and already gave people information about crime and antisocial behaviour in their neighbourhood when they typed in their postcode. By June, the site had received more than 420 million hits, according to the Home Office. ®