Watford street 'one of the worst for crime'

A Watford street's been named one of the most crime-ridden in England and Wales as a new street-by-street guide to crime is published online.

By putting in your postcode, it allows you to see what offences have been committed in your road in the past month.

The website says 135 crimes were reported on or near Watford's Albert Road South during December - that works out as more than four crimes every single day.  A street in Preston in Lancashire is named the worst for crime in England and Wales, with 152 crimes reported on Glovers Court in December.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the maps, accessible online at www.police.uk, would help people find out what was really going on in their area, and she denied making such detailed information available would drive down house prices in a particular area.

"It's not the existence of a map on a website that affects it,'' she said.

"This is giving people a real tool, real power to see that something is being done about crime in their area.

"This doesn't make them frightened, it actually makes them feel a part of what is happening.

"This will give them the real facts and figures. This will make the police more accountable. It gives people a real tool to hold the police to account."

Mrs May said the site, which cost £300,000 to develop, came "from a real feeling that people have lost confidence in national crime figures".

Policing Minister Nick Herbert also insisted that the more detailed information would not increase the fear of crime.

"We can't sweep crime under the carpet,'' he said.

"This kind of issue has been addressed in other countries and I don't think it's something we need to fear.

"But that could never be a reason not to tell the public about what is happening.

"We have to tell the truth about crime, we have to reveal the truth about what is happening and give the information and the power to the public.

"It's the crime that's the problem and this is a very important part of a strengthened effort to fight crime, to enhance accountability, to ensure that something is being done and to involve the public in that fight.''

He went on: "I see this as a part of our agenda to cut crime and to tackle anti-social behaviour.

"I think it will drive action to deal with it.''

It is the first time such detailed crime maps have been available for an entire country anywhere in the world.

People will be able to find out which crimes have taken place on or near their street within the last month, as well as the names of the officers responsible for their area.

Crime trends will also be established as the site develops and this could be extended to include details on the outcomes of court cases in the future.

Information on local police appeals and the next police community meeting will also be published alongside the crime maps.

Each crime 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 crimes such as theft and shoplifting, to help prevent victims from being identified.

Crime information for streets with fewer than 12 houses has also been aggregated out to the wider area for the same reason.

A Victim Support spokesman said it was important that victims consent to whether information about their crime is released.

"This should ensure that their privacy is protected, as well as ensuring that enough information is given to the public for them to be able to hold the police and criminal justice system to account,'' he said.

"Victims and witnesses of crime often tell us that the criminal justice system can be confusing and unwieldy. This recommendation to publish fuller information has the potential to bring greater transparency to the workings of the criminal justice system for victims, witnesses and the public.''

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham, added that crime mapping could be ``an effective means of letting people know what crimes are taking place in their local area''.

But he warned that "care needs to be taken as this can potentially have an impact on the privacy of individuals such as victims or witnesses''.

Visit the crime mapping website