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We have created a Web GIS solution that citizens and neighbourhood teams can access to gain an up-to-date picture of crime in specific areas.

Reducing fear of crime in the community

Working closely with partners including the police and health service, Lancashire County Council has used Esri’s ArcGIS technology in an Internet-based project that aims to dispel citizens’ unjustified fear of crime. Local people, neighbourhood watch teams and other community groups can now zoom into maps of the county to gain an accurate, up-to-date picture of crime in specific areas.


Case study – Public Safety


The Customer

Present-day Lancashire covers 3,075 square kilometres and a population of nearly 1.4 million people. The county council works with two unitary councils and twelve district councils to deliver and continually improve a wide range of public services. The council’s published aim is to “make a real and positive difference to the lives of the people and communities” it serves.

The web-based GIS solution, called MADE Public, is raising awareness of ‘the truth’ about crime with over 1,600 visitors a month

MADE Public helps the council to comply with government legislation by making crime data accessible to anyone who wants it

Police and neighbourhood watch teams use MADE Public to obtain up-to-date information to share with communities and reassure vulnerable people

The Challenge

Fear of crime, fuelled by news reports, can created unjustified fear of crime that has a more serious impact on people’s lives than crime itself. The council wanted to help residents understand the issues affecting their communities and reassure them about the safety of their neighbourhoods.

The council already hosted Multi-Agency Data Exchange (MADE), a central source of information on crime and disorder in the region. Partners in the local Crime Safety Partnerships (including police, fire and rescue, health service, community organisations, local authorities), share data, which is put in a geographical format – by ward, district and neighbourhood. This is used generate reports and assist strategic planning.

Melanie Greenslade, Principal Research and Intelligence Officer of MADE, explains: “The data in the partners’ area of MADE is detailed. We identified that local councillors and community police officers often needed a simpler representation of the data to take to Neighbourhood Watch meetings and local residents meetings, for example. We therefore set out to provide clear overviews of the data, particularly at the neighbourhood level.”

“ We identified that local councillors and community police officers often needed a simpler representation of the data […] We therefore set out to provide clear overviews of the data, particularly at the neighbourhood level

Melanie Greenslade – Principal Research and Intelligence Officer of Multi-Agency Data Exchange (MADE)

The Solution

Lancashire County Council wanted to provide an interactive map, so that residents and community workers could understand the information more easily than would be the case with tables of statistics, and also see precisely where incidents occurred. The council decided to adapt its existing Geographic Information System (GIS) to deliver this.

MADE Public was launched on a community website, www.saferlancashire.co.uk/statistics, after only six months’ development. Greenslade explains, “A lot of the elements that we needed for the project, including the GIS software and Oracle database, were already in existence, so we just had to link it all together. Because we could piggy-back on the council’s existing GIS application (MARIO – Maps and Related Information Online) that was already highly advanced, MADE Public didn’t cost us a huge amount of money to develop either. We gained additional value from our existing investment in Esri software.”

The system provides instant access to up-to-date statistics on everything from domestic burglary and vehicle crime to deliberate fires and calls to the ambulance service involving violence. Statistics can be viewed in an interactive map, as a table or graph. It also includes data such as the index of multiple deprivation areas, census data, education figures and aerial photographs, meaning users can assess relationships, e.g. between schools and areas of anti-social behaviour.

“ It supports community empowerment, by giving residents and community groups access to information that they need to challenge politicians, put in bids for funding and improve their lives

Melanie Greenslade – Principal Research and Intelligence Officer of MADE

Benefits

The new website has generated a great deal of interest and positive feedback. In the first two years, it averaged 1,600 visitors each month, and this is steadily increasing. More recently the figure has topped 2,700.

“One user emailed us to say how useful the service had been when he was looking to move house,” says Greenslade. “Another wrote that the website had ‘given him peace of mind’ – which is precisely what we had hoped to achieve. The service helps us to dispel some of the myths about crime in Lancashire.”

Residents and community groups are empowered to bid for funding to improve their lives, because they can base their proposals on hard facts that have been made easy to understand.

As well as being accessed directly by the general public, MADE Public is also used extensively by police officers, community workers and Neighbourhood Watch coordinators to help to reassure community groups and residents.

There are considerable cost savings too, because MADE Public – like its parent, MADE – is a joint project, funded and supported by multiple partners. Greenslade says: “Since we created MADE Public, new government legislation has been introduced that requires the police force and other public sector organisations to make data more accessible to the general public. If all of the partners involved in MADE Public had had to develop their own systems, the cost would have been much greater. We have saved time and money by sharing data and recycling resources.”

“ If all of the partners involved in MADE Public had had to develop their own systems, the cost would have been much greater. We have saved time and money by sharing data and recycling resources

Melanie Greenslade – Principal Research and Intelligence Officer of MADE

The Future

All the partners involved in the MADE Public initiative are keen to expand and develop the service, because they recognise the value that it adds. “This service helps all the partners to hit a number of government agendas”, says Greenslade.

The county council is currently upgrading to the latest version of ArcGIS Server. As a result, it will soon be re-launching both its own GIS services and the MADE Public interactive map, with added tools and capabilities.

Due to the popularity of the GIS component of the website, they plan to make the map a more prominent part of the website and introduce more map-based searching capabilities.

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