MP defends internet crime map

The Justice and Policing minister Nick Herbert has defended the introduction of the government’s new internet crime-mapping system.

In an interview with the Observer, the MP for Arundel said ‘crime could not be swept under the carpet’, as he met with residents at a Tangmere community event at the village primary school marking national Police Specials weekend.

The Sussex force has 300 voluntary special officers working across the county at weekends, which it believes forms a vital element of neighbourhood policing.

Its methods of engagement have been enhanced online with Facebook pages and crime-mapping.

While has been welcomed by MPs, it has raised fears of potential impact on property prices.

Mr Herbert said: “Having a crime map enables people to have an idea of what is going on and the ways in which they can help police.

“Since the website has been launched it has had 310 million hits, as people want to know what’s going on in their streets. It can also help them in reporting crime, so it’s a positive thing.”

Asked about the reported potential impact on house prices, he added: “It’s not the maps that are a problem – it is the crime itself which we need to tackle.”

Speaking about the Specials weekend, he added: “I am a huge supporter of the Specials. There are 300 in the county and I would like to see that number going up – there are presently around 17,000 in England and Wales.

“This is not about replacing full-time officers but is about enhancing the resources we have.

“This is a very good example of what we are doing with the Big Society. In fact the founder of the police, Robert Peel, once said the police are the public and the public are the police,’ said Mr Herbert, who acknowledged the county’s force is facing funding constraints. Also at the meeting, Chichester chief inspector Ali Darge praised the work of the Specials team.

He said: “They are a really important part of what we do in the community and work closely with the PCSOs and they do have an impact and make a difference.”

He added he thought crime mapping is proving another positive means of engaging with people in the area.

“It allows people to see the reality of what crimes are actually committed in an area. The reality here in Chichester is that it’s a safe place to live,” he said.

Figures from the Chichester crime map showed there had been 286 crimes in December 2010.

These included 116 incidents of anti-social behaviour, 118 ‘other’ crimes (drugs, theft and shoplifting) and 37 violent incidents.