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Home Office opens up anonymised crime data API

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Crime-conscious citizens can now view the raw data behind official stats website police.uk after the Home Office made the data freely available to download.

The police.uk site, which got off to a shaky start at its 2011 launch, offers policing and crime information for local areas, as well as a Google Maps-based visualisation of crime data at street level.

As well as adding new categories to the information available, the update by the Home Office allows users to download full datasets in CSV format, as well as directly accessing the police.uk API.

“By continuing to make policing more accessible to the public through directly elected police and crime commissioners and crime mapping, the government is driving forward even greater transparency across the criminal justice system, reconnecting police with the communities that they serve,” said policing and criminal justice minister Damian Green in a canned statement.

Your correspondent had a quick look at the new data, which claims to have been anonymised “to protect victims”. While this has been done to a basic degree – dates of crimes are limited to just month and year, rather than day, and actual crime reference numbers are replaced with a unique one-way hash – your hack found at least one identifiable assault which appeared to have been classified as anti-social behaviour, rather than a violent crime.

Police bloggers such as Inspector Gadget (who mysteriously deleted his popular blog about frontline policing earlier this year) and Sgt Ellie Bloggs have long complained of pressure from management to meet arbitrary targets when classifying crimes.

The government hopes that developers will use the data to develop other services, such as mobile apps, and encourages devs to submit new apps via the official portal at http://www.police.uk/apps.

One of the apps listed on the portal, “Crime Sounds”, promises to blurt out an alarm if a crime is committed within 50 metres of the phone's location, giving rise to the spectacle of people bimbling down the road suddenly sprinting for cover as their phones emit an ear-splitting shriek of terror. ®

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