back to article UK police crime map website: Who's the victim here?

Earlier this week the Home Office unveiled its crime-mapping website, which was developed by Leicester-based ad agency Rock Kitchen Harris for £300,000. Immediately following the site’s launch, suffered a serious bout of stage nerves as it wobbled under the demand from UK residents seizing the chance to find out what …


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  1. Wayne

    The map is a lie anyway...

    There have been 2 murders within 3 houses of mine. No violent crime shows up in my post code. 1 Motorcycle theft, 3 cases of theft from a vehicle, 2 car thefts and a number of burglaries. None of these show up. A couple of assaults and one very high profile of a house leading to numerous arrests on drug and weapon charges. No sign of that either.

    And I know that in at least 3 of those crimes, permission was given to include the reports in statistics.

  2. Andy Scott

    Site doesn't work

    Can anyone get the police crime map site to work for anywhere in Scotland? All I get is a message saying "Sorry, we couldn't find a policing area that matched your search."

    1. Ol'Peculier

      Have you...

      thought about moving?

      Our local paper has gone loopy about the data without really getting what has been displayed.

    2. Milkfloat

      The map is a lie anyway... #???

      Wayne - did all those incidents occur in December, as the data is only available for December so far. plus it is reported incidents that count, not actual crimes. Perhaps nobody thought to report them, or they had all been murdered.

      1. Wayne


        One of the murders and 2 of the thefts happened in December. They were reported.

        1. Mark 65 Silver badge

          Maybe best

          If you move house before they show up on the search - at least you might get someone buy it from out of the area. Unless of course it's Moss Side.

    3. Stuart Halliday


      Did no one tell you it only covers England & Wales?

      BTW any decent IT engineer will tell the customer that location data based on postcode is highly inaccurate. No wonder people are complaining!

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Do Police Response Units Dream of Google Maps?

        Based upon my postcode the web site displayed a google map of my village and then incorrectly named it as a village 16 miles to the south of us (the local police station is equidistant to both).

        No wonder it takes plod so long to arrive.

        As a footnote; When left to it's own devices Google Maps correctly identifies my village.

    4. Anonymous Coward

      No permission needed

      I think you are getting confused with the need to obtain permission to release personal data to the Press... All recorded crime (which is of course a whole topic for discussion in itself...) is included in statistics, by definition. Of course, as you have demonstrated, the recorded data has to be *accurate*... :(

    5. Anonymous Coward

      Which part of...

      ... "crime data for England and Wales" are you having trouble understanding?

      Or are you a toff English owner of an hotel somewhere North of the border who hasn't yet worked out that Scotland isn't in England?

      Give me strength...

  3. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Not only...

    Why did it cost so much, but who else bid for the work and how did their costs stack up?

  4. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Flubert

      Title thyself

      Only 'preferred suppliers' who are always 10x the cost of anyone else because they have to build contingencies into their costs that reflect what a bloody awful customer UK Gov is.

  5. TeeCee Gold badge

    "Rock Kitchen Harris"?

    Damn. I've only just mastered Paper and Scissors and now they've changed the bloody rules.

  6. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    But on the plus side...

    the site does actually work in Welsh...well, sort of, most of it at least - some odd words and phrases still appear in English in the middle of a Welsh page and they can't quite seem to cope with letters with accents on them, even though the web page is tagged as utf-8 - î comes out as Ó, and an apostrophe comes out as í, but I think 6/10 for effort! Cais da ond rhaid ceisio'n galetach...

    And the best bit was looking at my village and discovering we'd had a grand total of zero offences - rural Wales may be short of services but it seems to be lacking in crims as well.

    1. peredur

      Cais da

      Rhaid bod Cymraeg trigolion Caerlŷr wedi dirywio drost y blynyddoed. Effaith y Saesneg o'u cwmpas nhw.

      (The Welsh in the Leicester area must have deteriorated over the years. The effect of all that English around them)

      Hmm. No problem with the ŷ in the preview window, anyway.



    2. Just Thinking


      I think you are getting it mixed up with Nathan Barley's cock muff bumhole?

    3. William Old

      Possibly, but...

      ... it's much more likely that your village was never actually successful in getting one of the Welsh forces to save up enough money to send a police officer to find out any details of what crime really is happing there.

      Most (all?) police forces are having to search down the back of the sofa for lost coins just to pay the electricity bill these days... if you are a supplier, I'd warn you against offering any of them 30-day credit... :(

  7. Jamie Kitson


    Surely the £300,000 went towards both the development of the website and back end that Rob West is using, so he's being a bit disingenuous saying that he's done the same work in 8 hours. And let's be honest, the sites don't really compare.

    I agree it's a lot of money, and I hate ad agencies as much as the next person, but how about a bit of balance?

    1. WWWRob

      What backend?

      Just to be clear, the alternative website is based on the raw data provided on the police website, not the API they provide. The only backend is provided by one of the large shared hosting companies.

      My point is that if only access was allowed to the raw data, then someone with a few spare hours would do this work for free. Yes the websites don’t compare, they aren’t meant to, it was just meant to be a demonstration of what can be done for little effort and expense.

      1. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

        it's a good point...

        ... look at what happened when VOSA finally gave in and released the MOT failure rate for all makes and models of vehicle. Within a couple of days people had taken the data, cleansed it, and build websites to serve it. Come to think of it, the same thing happened with MP's expenses, those dodgy emails from the Climate Research Unit and the BNP membership list.

    2. Mark Olleson

      Seems quite reasonable

      Buy government standards, this was a low-cost initiative, and unlike most other government IT projects, the costs of this one seem in the right order of magnitude.

      There is a really no comparison between a proof-of-concept site developed in 7 hours with a productionized one. As anyone who's involved in large IT projects will tell you, development costs are only a small part of the overall budget.

  8. Lloyd


    I understand that the reasoning behind the gov costings is thus:

    1) Never bring it in house, always use a supplier it's easier to blame them when it goes wrong.

    2) Suppliers can never have less more 50% of income per annum from

    3) Suppliers total income per year must be more than x million.

    Which basically mean that the only people who can work with are large companies (Siemens, GE, IBM), who's billing practices are always in the realms of fantasy, I'm surprised a piddling ad agency even got a look in.

  9. Mark Jan

    Government Wake Up

    I don't care what flavour of government we have, government departments and IT just don't mix.

    Generally speaking, government departments spending big money on big projects just don't mix.

    Why they don't mix is because they're not spending their own cash, which by definition wasn't earned by them in the first place.

    So, instead of sensibly defining, scoping, budgeting, evolving etc a system fit for purpose, we generally get a committee of incompetents spending an ever ready stream of tax-cash on a half baked idea which someone thought was a good one at the time.

    No accountability means no lessons are ever learned either...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The problem

      They subcontract different parts of the project to different companies who will rarely if ever communicate with each other.

      Very often company B’s ability to complete task Y is dependent on company A finishing task X. Company B turns up, sees that company A has not finished task X and says ‘fuck it, we were paid to do task Y and we’re bloody well going to do it’. So they do it, incorrectly, knowing full well that all they have done is cause problems for everyone involved.

      Then company A does turn up, says ‘what’s all this shit doing here, company B was supposed to wait for us. Now we need to hire company C to clean this shit up so we can do our job!’ And so it goes, the jobs are done over and over and over and over again until by chance, by accident, or by coincidence, they are done in the right order.

      This is generally stupid shit like ‘installing’ the servers before the racks turn up, furnishing rooms before they’ve been carpeted, or getting the roofer to turn up before you’ve laid any foundations. And he WILL build you a roof, make no mistake about it. “I’m just doing my job” is the 21st century get out of jail free card.

      And it happens in every fucking government project going.

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        When I was a registered nurse ...

        ... the "job" of giving medications properly was distilled into "the right medication, to the right person, at the right time, by the right route". Perhaps it is time to adopt these principles to gvt contracts - something like "the right action, in the right place, at the right time, by the right method". Can't that be written into contracts in some way?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it really that expensive?

    @Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    £300k is roughly the price of a single Rolls Royce Phantom.

    It would buy you the services of one Premiership player for a couple of weeks.

    You could police London for about an hour (rough approximation based on the £2.7bn Met budget for 2010).

    Roughly one and a half times the annual salaries of the jobs advertised on this page.

    Personally the cost seems pretty reasonable to me.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Site Errors...

    There are a few problems with the cheapie site so I guess you get what you pay for!

    On a street where multiple types of crime have occured the pins are stacked such that you cannot access the lower data, They need to combine the types into single pins, and different colours would be useful too. (especially if colours faded based on the mix - ie 2 red +1 blue = magent whereas 2 blue + 1 Red = violet)

    Anyway as a developer I have quoted for database jobs and been decliend because I was too cheap! business really does not understand, and government follows where the idiots lead. And on the flip side I've seen stupidly crap products from big companies sell for thousands...

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Just because other things are ridiculously expensive ...

      .... it doesn't mean everything else should be. There is absolutely no good reason why the RR and the footballer should cost so much, but they are not paid from taxes, so it doesn't matter in this context. They have nothing to do with whether this is a good use of a taxpayer's money.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Only scratching the surface

    Having worked on a more detailed system for internal use within a UK police force I can say that there a whole heap of other considerations to deal with with respect to the data. For people wondering why a certian crime doesn't appear - there's many reasons why a particular crime might not be shown even if you think you know it ought to exist (e.g.., Rape / child abuse). And you don't know what type of classification is being used to determine the type of crime - is it what it was reported as, is it what the offender has been charged with etc., etc.

    And crimes don't happen in a postcode or a ward or a town. They happen at a place (or places). So if they've brought the data at a postcode (and many places don't have a postcode - robbery in a park ?) then it'll be wrong. Consider credit card fraud - where did the crime occur ? Do you take multiple occurences ? or do you consider where the offender(s) were arrested ?

    The data we used was down to x/y coords to the nearest meter. It can shown a considerably different view...

  13. Tom 35 Silver badge

    developed by Leicester-based ad agency

    An ad agency?

    So 90% for Management, project managers, expense accounts, parties... 10% to pay a coder and graphic designer.

    Why didn't they hire a plumber, after all the internet is made up of tubes...

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Crime in Scotland

    There is no crime in Scotland. Only cries of help from the disadvantaged who are trying to address the inequalities of life and create a socialist utopia north of Hadrian's Wall.

    And that's why you're not allowed to hit scrotes with a crowbar when they're nicking your car stereo. they're not thieves they're disadvantaged.

  15. batfastad
    Jobs Horns


    Does the £300k cost include the running costs?

    AWS operate a pay-as-you-go policy so with everyone hammering the site at the moment and racking up the requests, I wonder if the dev company will be submitting another bill very soon!

    Anyway, the gov should have just given the data and setup a backend for querying the data, and left the frontend mashup to a member of the public who would have sorted it out eventually.

    Ahhhh... but then the gov/police don't get to take the glory of the launch of a new site!

    Do I get a tax refund? Since there's not been any crimes or a police human in the small village where I live for over 10 years.

    1. Mark Olleson


      You're probably right that the government should have set up a backend to serve the data. However, this is likely to be responsible for a significant proportion of the running costs.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Thought they had already done this

    I was able to pull up the crime stats of my london area few years ago, so why they couldn;t of been expanded as exactly the same thing I dont know. Maybe it was. But having a site able to handle the DDOSing from the entire UK+externals is somewhat crazy, hell even banks can't handle all there customers comming to there branch's at once so when a website fails to do so then who's supprised.

    One question I do have is that why couldn't this of been open sourced. Hell why dont the goverment do a website of projects that need doing and open that up fully to the public to see whats being done in there name. Until then we will get reactinary solutions to premptable problems.

    Also why oh why do goverments use ad agencies when the content there getting out there does its own ruddy advertising - it's like having a marketing stratergy to advertise a tax increase of 2.1% when if you just did it then the tax incrase would be 2% and the press would advertise it for you for free, papers and news are good for that, use them as they certainly know how to use you :|.

    Personaly I find the whole goverment thing curious as party A comes in sells of lots of income avenues to private sector allowing private sector to rape the public then party B comes in and picks up that mess then makes there own legacy mess for party A to come in and repeat the vicious circle. If something is profitable then why give it away. Also when siad percieved improvment's in private sector are based upon private sector overcharging the customer then one has to ask what the hell they are smoking as I personaly think its more a danger to this country than crack and thats illegal.

    In further news Mr smith reported 297 dog offences in the street he is going to buy his new house which shockingly enabled him to save money and once he moved the reports of dog offences dropped to zero. It will happen.

    ANON before I'm data mined by open source :D

  17. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    why did it have to cost so much?

    Well all those back-handers and "encouragement" to directors on the boards of the vendors, don't come cheap you know!

  18. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    San Francisco

    A couple of weeks ago, a BBC4 programme about statistics showed the crime map at I haven't tried it, but the TV programme implied that it could be used for data mining, such as finding out what time of day was safest, and what kind of crime was committed in different areas.

    I assume, since the page denies any association with San Francisco Police Department, that the police didn't pay for this one.

    Are we in the UK paying more for something inferior? It wouldn't be the first time.

  19. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    @ AC - 15:07 GMT "Is it really that expensive?"

    Who cares? I made no reference to wanting any irrelevant price comparisons. But by all means, you waste your time on that if you want - not a sockpuppet for RKH are you?

    The point is that we are now supposed to be living under a "transparent" government. So the question is quite valid.


  20. Semaj

    Not that much

    It's quite sad really but when I hear £300k and government IT project I actually feel like it's a bargain :/

  21. JaitcH

    Home Office/ACPO looking after their friends at Rock Kitchen Harris?

    Was this effort even put out for tender?

    Quite honestly the data presentations are boring - as if it is a web version Power Point. The Register had a piece on the CEO of the company who does the mapping as used in Twitter - those presentations would be much exiting to look at than boring numbers.

    I put in Stonehenge as a location and it offered me two police services (forces suggest violence as used on students). I then put one in each window and then the wondrous cloud based service simply provided some hypnotic rotating icons.

    Very disappointing, but should we expect better from Plod + Rock Kitchen Harris + Amazon?

    P.S. I just tried 10 Downing Street (SW1A 2AA) - the Plod site just did it's circular trick. (I thought a telephone tapper was located there during December)

  22. Luther Blissett

    Marble worktops and treasure islands (for the few)

    Anyone found 'corruption' or 'malfeasance in public office' in their area?

  23. Leona A
    Thumb Up

    same thing with direct gov if I remember correctly

    I can not remember the figures, but at the time the 'govt' took ages and spent millions, going over time and budget on it, whereas a 'bored' student produced a similar site in 2 hours which only cost a packet of biscuits ! :) (bascily just re branded google, but the results where the same :) ), proved a point though.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    err... £300k isn't that bad.

    I mean they had to take the data out of the police forces' databases (which will vary hugely in quantity and quality of data stored as well as in the formats (and even whether or not they're IN a standard format) used.). Have you looked at the data behind this? It'd actually be NICE to work with. None of that "human typing error" or numbers-in-a-plain-text crap that you get with a lot of "evolved" systems.

    Yes, you can write a program that creates a KML based on a basic dataset in a night. Even updating once a month to get the latest and greatest data would be a night or two's work at most.

    But a good chunk of that money would have been earned raking through the various databases and pulling together the required data. It even pulled out data from the Welsh- can you imagine how difficult it must be to make sure it's valid?!

    Saying that, I do agree with the other calls for a totally transparent "dumping" of historical police (and other government) data. If they released periodic updates as torrents followed up by hosting the "newest" data on the Amazon cloud then we'd all be able to piece together programs and websites that interrogated this data to give us the information that we wanted.

    1. Tombola
      Thumb Down

      It's statiscally nonsense..

      The data isn't normalised for the number of people in a particular street.

      Specific example:

      Thousands maybe even tens of thousands of generally well behaved rugby supporters will descend on Mill Lane in Cardiff tonight before and after the Wales/England match. "Chip Alley" as its known. Lots of take-aways and pubs around there.

      Of the thousands a few, a very few, (because it's a rugby crowd not a vicious football crowd), may have their collars felt for exuberant behaviour.

      The snag is that this ridiculous site reports Mill Lane as the most crime laden street in Wales, when its generally good natured and fun!

      What do Condemns really think they are doing. What be the reaction if Mill Lane was shut down>

      1. peredur

        What be the reaction if Mill Lane was shut down?

        We'd all have to go back to Caroline Street.



  25. Frederic Bloggs


    Just for fun, I had a look at the API. It appears that all the RESTful requests go to a server in the domain. Call me old fashioned but, at least for the look of thing, shouldn't all to *data* requests be going to somewhere that at least looks as though it is more directly under the government's control?

    The ongoing cloud bill is going to be huge!

  26. Someone Else Silver badge

    Rock Kitchen Harris

    Sounds like a child's game played with their hands...

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Doesn't seem to be worth the paper it's printed on

    I'm really having trouble seeing the value of this. It shows a handful of incidents of "antisocial behaviour" in this area and even though "crimes are mapped to an anonymous point on or near the road where they occurred" there are no burglaries near here on the map even though I know of at least 2.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Alternative site is cool

    So far Manchester postcodes in M34 has been in Japan and south Africa. The South African authorities don't seem to have provided any crime data for some reason.

  29. Mycho Silver badge

    Be good to have a filter.

    The difference in crime levels between Oakham and Holbeach is almost exactly the same as the difference in number of ASBOs handed out. So the Holbeach coppers are freer with the chav certificates than the Oakham coppers, it would be handy if we could view "All real crimes".


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