England and Wales today become the first countries in the world to release street-by-street information on every crime and act of anti-social behaviour reported to police.
A new website ( www.police.uk), which goes live today, allows anyone to search for a postcode or address and learn what crimes have been committed – down to a range of 12 houses.
The information can also be accessed on mobile phones using GPS technology, which pinpoint crimes that have taken place wherever the user is. The raw data will be made freely available to programmers and will be updated on a monthly basis.
It opens the way for smartphone applications which will find the statistically safest way to walk home and the streets and shortcuts to avoid.
The report also reveals the extent of anti-social behaviour across the country for the first time. Last December alone there were 193,685 reports in England and Wales – across the year this would equate to 2.3m complaints.
London had the highest number of reports with 34,000 but of the 4,084 crime reports recorded by Cumbria Constabulary, more than half (2,207) were complaints about anti-social behaviour. Ministers believe that the information will become an important tool which will let communities hold their local police to account.
However, critics warn it could potentially allow individual crime victims to be identified and increase vigilantism. Others say it could increase fear of crime and have a negative effect on house prices.
The scheme is part of a wider attempt to release vast swathes of information held by central and local government which can be adapted by software developers to provide useful information to the public. Last year they began publishing all Government expenditure over £500 while the NHS is increasingly providing raw performance information. In London, real-time releases of transport information has allowed one developer to release an application to wake you up early if there are delays on your chosen route to work.
Under the crime scheme, each offence has been sorted into one of six broad categories – violent crime, burglary, robbery, vehicle crime, anti-social behaviour and other crime – partly to help protect the privacy and identity of victims.
Sex crimes have been included in the "other" category, along with theft and shoplifting, to help prevent victims from being identified.
The scheme cost £300,000 to develop and is entirely based on data already collected by the police. Over the coming months, the amount of information on the site is likely to increase.
Policing Minister Nick Herbert said the Government was determined to provide as much detailed information as possible. "We can't sweep crime under the carpet," he said. "We have to tell the truth about crime and where it is happening and give the information and the power to the public.