Friday, May 20, 2005

Safe, and feeling safe?

In March last year, as I was taking my 3 year old to Nursery, we walked past a large CRIMESTOPPERS notice asking for information on or witnesses to the armed robbery of a pedestrian that had occurred in that street at 9:50 in the morning.

Now, I am pretty obviously interested in gunplay yards from where my little boy spends much of his waking hours, so it struck me that there is no mechanism in place at all - apart perhaps from the local paper - that would let me find out if, how and when this incident was cleared up. In fact, I never heard anything about it at all, so in my particular case all that the police achieved was to alarm me.

I've written here many times about how I think the Police could benefit from presenting appeals in the form of weblogs. This is because the chronological presentation of blogs (with the most recent information first) and the subscription mechanisms (ranging from RSS and ATOM feeds to email) make them tremendously well suited for keeping people up to date with developments on any sort of issue.

I don't think that I have explicitly stressed before that appeal and investigation blogs could be used to reassure the public by letting them know about ultimate outcomes.

Reassurance is a set priority in the UK. There is a National Reassurance Policing Project with a website and my local Police at Merton are piloting the Met's initiatives to plug the "Reassurance Gap". Merton's efforts have got a website as well. There's just no way for me to be reassured that our local stick up merchant has been banged up.

Are these ideas relevant, practical and achievable? Look at the screen shot above. We are living in a time when Google local can conjure up a map and details of the pubs convenient for my office in the blink of an eye.

Remember that RSS awareness and subscription mechanisms are built in to Firefox browser as well as the latest offering from Apple, and that I have heard (off the record, from the horse's mouth) that the next version of Internet Explorer will at least catch up.

Why can't I look up Crimestoppers appeals in Google Local, identify appeals that I might know something about, and subscribe to be informed of progress on disturbing incidents on my doorstep.

The issues aren't technical It is just a question of the vision, will and commitment to do it.

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