Crime Maps: Public to have access to information on incidents

Controversial but on the right lines?

New internet ‘clickable crime maps’ will show families every

incident in their neighbourhood

By James Slack

Maps will be released to the public showing how many violent attacks have taken place on every street, including how close they were to schools, pubs and cash points.

The maps, which will use Google-style images of actual streets and parks, will also detail the precise locations of a raft of other offences – such as car crime and yobbish behaviour.

The Home Office said the project  would for the first time give residents a true picture of the state of their community.

Police data about youth violence in the London borough of Camden

But experts warned it could cause huge damage to neighbourhoods which are blighted by crime – knocking thousands from house prices overnight.

It could also lead to schools in high-crime areas struggling to attract children.

James Scott-Lee, of the Royal Institute of Charted Surveyors, said: ‘Whilst RICS fully supports efforts by the government to reduce instances of crime, publishing this information will no doubt have an effect on local house prices – not to dissimilar to school and hospital league tables.


‘In the current economic climate, publicising in a sensational manner high crime areas in such detail could literally wipe thousands of pounds off of house prices over night, further disadvantaging those who are already struggling to make ends meet.

The maps, which will be available nationwide by the end of the year, are intended to make local police more accountable.

Ministers also argue that, if residents become aware their area is plagued by crime, they can also do something to help, such as set up neighbourhood watch.

Initially, the maps will be available online and in leaflet form. They can be searched by postcode and are backed up by graphs showing crime trends, month-on-month comparisons, and information broken down into specific types of offence.

Cabinet Office papers reveal the final plan intends to go even further. It will use images from Google, which show aerial pictures of every street and park in the country.

The locations where crimes have taken place can then be detailed on the maps. The precise locations of schools, cash points and pubs will also be detailed.

It will allow residents to, in theory, spot areas where action is needed – or which should be avoided.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said cutting crime was a ‘two-way street’ involving both the public and police

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: ‘The public are the best weapon in helping to fight crime and anti-social behaviour – and to do that people need to know what’s going on in their area.

Stressing that cutting crime was a ‘two-way street’ involving both the public and the police, Miss Smith added: ‘We need to make sure that people know what’s happening to crime in their neighbourhood, and how they can get involved and work with their neighbourhood police officers.’

Maps published in the West Midlands , which has been piloting the idea, also contain links to local contact details, allowing the public to access individual officers easily.

Inspector Anthony Tagg, who has worked on the crime map project in the West Midlands area, said: ‘It’s really important to enable our communities to understand what’s happening in their areas and to help them influence policing in their local communities.’

Mr Tagg described the force’s maps, which can ‘zoom’ down to the level of individual streets, as giving an overall flavour of what crime was like in a particular area.

He added: ‘It’s a system we are very proud of. It helps local communities deliver a policing approach that’s specific to them.’

Shadow Home Secretary, Dominic Grieve, said: ‘Yet again we see a Government that is out of ideas trying to steal Conservative policy.

‘Our proposals detailed in April will go much further by setting up quarterly beat meetings – along with directly elected commissioners – to restore real local accountability to policing.

‘Labour must realise that crime mapping is only part of the solution. Urgent action is also required to slash the red tape that is tying officers to their desks and keeping them off the streets, where the public want to see them.’

The Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science backs the plan, and is holding a conference on the benefits of crime mapping.

It said: ‘If we can understand more about why certain places act as popular locations where offenders offend, why certain areas breed more offenders than others, and why certain places or people are more vulnerable than others, then we can begin to more effectively get behind why crimes happen, become more intelligent in our policing, and design our operational policing, crime reduction and prevention responses to be more successful.’

Earlier this month, the Daily Mail revealed how internet giant Google plans to photograph millions of British homes and publish them online.

Google’s Street View website will allow anyone in the world to type in an a UK address or postcode and instantly see a 360 degree picture of the street – including close-ups of buildings, cars and people.

Critics say the site is a ‘burglar’s charter’ and makes it easy for criminals to case out potential victims. The pictures also show people leaving and entering hospitals, health clinics, adult shops and hotels.

Although their faces are deliberately blurred, many people could still be recognised by their clothing and hair colour.

The Home Office’s plans are based on Google Earth, which provides aerial views of streets and homes from above. Burglary is to be excluded from the list of offences on which details are given, to protect the ‘privacy’ of victims.

NRI: 79 Indians in Gulf debt trap commit suicide

79 Indians in Gulf debt trap commit suicide

Daniel P George | TNN

Chennai: The Gulf dream seems to have become a death trap for Indians, with 79 of them committing suicide this year alone in the UAE due to mounting debts. Most of the victims belonged to Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

‘‘In 2006, 109 people committed suicide. The number rose to 118 in 2007. This year, from January to June, 79 Indians have killed themselves,’’ Manish Kumar Sinha of the Indian consulate in Dubai told TOI. According to voluntary organizations working among the less fortunate in Dubai, as many as 23 of the victims belonged to TN. The rest were from Kerala and other states.

K V Shamsudheen, chairman of Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust, said suicide among Indian expatriates has been on the rise since 2003. According to figures put out by the Indian consulate early this month, 40 suicide cases were recorded in 2003, 70 in 2004 and 84 in 2005.

‘‘On an average we get two calls a day from people who are severely depressed. In 75% of the cases, the depression is due to financial crisis which they are not able to share with others,’’ said Shamsudeen.

The Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust has formed another trust, named Sandwanam (consolation), with the aim to reduce suicides among Indians in the UAE.

In ’07, 118 Indians in UAE committed suicide; the toll was 109 in ’06 .In 75% of the cases, the trigger is depression caused by financial burden. Under pressure from family to send home money, they incur loans.

While banks charge up to 8%, the interest rate is 30% on credit cards. Individual lenders charge 72% to 120% Family pressure leading to suicides
Chennai: The Gulf dream seems to have turned sour as 79 Indians, most of them belonging to TN and Kerala, ended their lives as they fell into vicious debt traps.

‘‘When a person arrives in a Gulf country, he is already in debt after spending money on visa and travel. And even before he can settle down, his family back home starts putting pressure on him to send money,’’ Shamsudheen said.

The main sources of debt, according to him, are bank loans, credit cards and individual illegal lenders. The interest rates vary. While banks charge up to 8% for loans, the rate can go up to 30% on credit cards. Individual lenders charge as high as 72% to 120%.

‘‘The family back home starts spending lavishly without considering the financial situation of the breadwinner,’’ said Shamshudeen. According to him, when people run out of money, their first option is to get a loan from the bank. When they can’t pay back the loan, they apply for credit cards. And when they reach their borrowing limit on the card, they turn to private lenders who charge exorbitant interest rates.

‘‘In some cases the minimum payment on credit cards is more than their monthly salary. Such cases are increasing by the day,’’ Shamsudheen added. The UAE is home to about 1.5 million Indian nationals. Construction workers account for the majority of the Indian migrant workforce, constituting 42.5% of the labour force.

Terrorism: Good guys must get together

Being subject to terrorist attacks  appears to have become a routine. Loss of lives and the panic are sought to be washed off in inane rhetoric. Citizens look on as the government appears to be helpless. Reasons for the ineffectiveness of the government to prevent acts of terrorism reoccurring with frightening  rapidity and the apparent impunity with which the perpetrators operate, are they insurmountable?

If the police forces in the country are misused less by the politicians and bureaucrats they would have more time to do their job. Tracking criminals and terrorists.Protecting Citizens.

It is time politicians stopped using  these tragedies to demoralize the police and intelligence but got together to work out put in systems to face the real problems.

Look at USA. They learnt their lesson with one attack at home on 9/11. You have seen them react in no uncertain manner to plug loopholes, and go after the baddies. There has been no repeat of 9/11.


Extract from the HT/TOI

This Is About Us

India is under attack, we must stick together

Even before the country recovered from the shock of being attacked in Bangalore on Friday last, the terror strikes in Ahmedabad followed a day after. The serial blasts in both cities over the weekend appear to have been well orchestrated, to claim innocent lives and unleash panic.

It is not everyday that a country faces such a situation, of several bombs going off across states within a span of hours, killing dozens and injuring hundreds. Now that we have been visited by such terror, the response must necessarily be one that is tempered with calm, despite the understandable disposition to outrage.

As we go to press, the casualties in Ahmedabad are reported to be 45 and dozens have been injured. But even before the body count is through, there have been attempts by some political parties to score petty points off each other.

Conjecture about whether much must be made about the fact that both Karnataka and Gujarat are ruled by the BJP, sadly, runs rife. To his credit, opposition leader L K Advani has brushed off such conspiracy theories. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was right when he said that those behind the attacks were enemies of humanity.

Appeals for calm across the political spectrum — starting with one from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — are welcome as there is no good in pointing fingers at a time when the country is under attack.

It is premature to place blame for the attacks on a particular group, indigenous or otherwise. It is also pointless to replay the refrain of the blame game between state and central intelligence agencies. Terror strike after terror strike, we are fed the same story about how each failed the other.

There is clearly a systemic fault in our intelligence and security administration that exposes the public to dangers that could perhaps be avoided. It is an issue that must no doubt be redressed speedily. But it must be acknowledged that securing a country as vast and densely populated as ours is no easy task. What these attacks — and the series of similar assaults before — establish is that India is being systematically targeted.

The pattern reveals that terrorists can and will strike not just at our metros but anywhere they think maximum damage — to life and economic activity — can be inflicted.

As we have argued in these columns before, boosting security, even if it means inconveniencing citizens to some measure, is an urgent need. Equally pressing is the need to bring the perpetrators of earlier terror strikes to book. Meanwhile, citizens must stay calm in response to such deliberately provocative attacks.

Otherwise, we would be playing into the hands of those who are avowed enemies of our way of life and our secular, democratic politics.

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We need a united national response

BY now the country’s response to terrorist strikes have become predictable: Congress governments offer compensation and urge people to remain calm, the BJP calls for draconian anti- terrorist legislation and the Left sees a conspiracy unfolding.

The police issue alerts and the intelligence agencies claim that they had issued warnings before the event. The bemused people of the country, and the unfortunate victims, take the inevitable tragedies that accompany such acts in their stride — their stoicism providing the solid wall that prevents the terrorists from achieving their aim of creating civil war and chaos.

The 17 blasts in Ahmedabad on Saturday that have so far taken 45 lives and those in Bangalore the day before that killed one person are part of a pattern that stretches back to the Varanasi and Delhi blasts of 2005 whose primary manifestation is that no one knows who the perpetrators are. Bangladesh- based Harkat- ul- jehad Islami has been the prime suspect.

But commonsense would suggest that the action of carrying out multiple blasts across our urban centres involves groups that have developed durable local roots. In other words, most of the problem and its solution lie within the country, rather than without.

While combating terrorism — arresting, trying and punishing the guilty is of immediate importance — we would be foolish to ignore the fact that those involved are using events like the Bombay riots of 1992- 93 and the Gujarat massacre of 2002 to justify their acts.

To undermine their case, the Indian polity must not only be just to the victims, but appear to be so. As of now, our record has been shoddy.

Most Mumbai rioters from the Hindu community got away scot- free, in contrast to the Muslim perpetrators of the 1993 blasts who have been punished. In Gujarat, most of those punished have been through trials that the Supreme Court moved out of the state as its administrative and judicial machinery has been compromised.

The country needs to come up with a single political response to terrorism, but that has been lacking because of the BJP and Sangh Parivar’s anti- Muslim politics. We also need a single administrative response through a centralised anti- terrorist force.

But this is stymied because states rightly worry that it will be used, as the CBI is, to settle political scores. Gross misuse has characterised the use of past anti- terrorist legislation.

In such circumstances, we really cannot offer any answers except to say that the country will collectively suffer the consequences of the present state of affairs.