UK police crime map site crashes due to demand

The Government was left red-faced today after a new police web site charting the crime statistics of every street in England and Wales crashed just hours after it launched, thanks to a record number of visitors.

Responding to reports that many users were having difficulty loading the site, policing minister Nick Herbert cited an unprecedented number of hits.

"[The site] has been receiving 75,000 hits a minute, and we've had four and a half million in the last hour, which is a sign of the huge interest there is in this," he claimed in an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The new site at www.police.uk lets users type their postcode, and presents them with a 'crime map' of incidents reported in the area during the last full month. At the time of launch, the site is providing figures for December 2010.

It's the first time such comprehensive crime maps have been published for an entire country anywhere in the world.

Critics of the site claim the statistics will only help to fuel the public's fear of crime, but Herbert called the site a "very important step forward in accountability and transparency".

The government claims the maps will change the relationship between police and public, enabling residents to hold their local law enforcement to account.

"This will enable people know exactly what's happening in their street," Herbert told the Today programme.

"It reveals the incidence of antisocial behaviour and specific crimes that have taken place. But more importantly, it enables them to hold the police to account, because the same website gives all the details of the local neighbourhood policing teams.

"People can not just know about these crimes and antisocial behaviour incidents, but get hold of their police, talk to them about it - find out what's happening," the minister added.

The site, which cost £300,000 to build, demonstrates that police received more than 200,000 reports of antisocial behaviour during December 2010 - an average of more than 6,500 a day.

After a number of users reported problems early this morning, the site was brought to an absolute standstill at around 10:00 GMT.

Something like normal service resumed this afternoon - though numerous reports on Twitter claim that crime statistics for their area appear far from accurate.

THINQ certainly raised a quizzical eyebrow when the site told us the total number of crimes in our local area in the London borough of Tower Hamlets was zero.

We'd beg to differ - we're still waiting for the Met to track down the bike wheels we got nicked last month.