Freesteel Blog » Inexcusably poor crime mapper technology

Inexcusably poor crime mapper technology

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009 at 2:00 pm Written by:

Today the new UK Crime Mapper is having a big launch.

It’s been put together by a small ad company in Leicester called Rock Kitchen Harris with 22 people on their about page, all but 4 of whom are not programmers. They must be happy with this balance because they’ve got a recruitment ad for another graphics designer.

The technology appears to be Bing maps — which is some Microsoft product. I don’t know what goes on internally inside Rock Kitchen, but it’s likely to be Microsoft as well. UK government has a history of loving Microsoft no matter what the case. They refrain from giving money to anyone who actually knows what they are doing.

Here’s the criminal quality of the crime overlays:




As you can see, the polygonal area boundaries are simplified at different scales — individually. This causes ugly cracks and overlaps.

Who’d have thought people would ever want to draw meshes of polygons as overlays on a map for countries, counties, police districts, statistics regions, catchment areas, and so on, and want to see it done properly?

No? Of course not. Either no one in Bing even dreamed of this obvious application for polygon overlays, or RKH didn’t think it was important enough to look for, or they didn’t consider using some other technology where they could have made it work, thus depriving Microsoft of revenue until they bothered to get it done properly.

There’s a lot else wrong with the technology here, which I won’t go into, because they’re having worse problems, known as “temporary intermittent issues”.


How embarrassing for Home Office Minister David Hanson as they launch this service that it looks crap and happens to be broken.

At least it didn’t lose £300million like Tony Blair’s Individual Learning Account, implemented by Capita. That was real money. Capita let down the Prime Minister big, big time. And yet they’re still in business living off of government contracts. So I don’t think RKH have anything to worry about in terms of getting paid for this.

Go here next month to find out how much.

As all programmers ought to know by now (assuming RKH has any programmers, though this is not their fault as the government would be less likely to have hired them if they did), you must use and release free software by default all the time unless there is no alternative.

Here’s a tip: The source-code for making the following product:

… is available here.

This means there is no excuse for producing anything of a lesser standard. You should have gone and talked to them, because if you are fortunate enough to get any government money to build a new project and you invest it in some improvements on the public code, then everyone’s applications will get better at the same time.

In this way, we will eventually get somewhere good, and not always be starting at ground zero every single frigging time! People will start making stuff that’s actually fit for this century.

There’s hope for KBH as one of their web developers is looking at django today.


  • 1. Tweets that mention Frees&hellip replies at 20th October 2009, 8:09 pm :

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Philip John, CountCulture. CountCulture said: I read: Inexcusably poor crime mapper technology #opendata #crimemap […]

  • 2. Denny replies at 14th November 2009, 10:56 pm :

    Yay, insufficiently advanced technology. I guess the people who authorised that didn’t read this:

    By the way, I think you typo’d the company acronym in the last paragraph?

  • 3. Julian replies at 19th November 2009, 11:03 am :

    The figures from the FOI so far are:

    * £200,000 for the main part of the service
    * £28,000 for the database of police contact numbers
    * £2,700 on penetration testing for concerns someone could be bothered to hack this website
    * £6,000 for additional technical services at the time of the launch (the website crashed after the embargoed press release, hours before the official announcement, “because it was so popular”).
    * £50,000 per year for running it. (Initial term of 2 years, may be extended by another 2 years in total)

    Policing and Crime Minister David Hanson gives his interview on the day of the launch here

    I am waiting on the copy of the contract and the terms of service (did they have to refund any money when it went down on the day of the launch — nice how they spun it as a sign of “popularity” rather than contractor’s incompetence.)

  • 4. Freesteel&hellip replies at 18th October 2010, 3:01 pm :

    […] I’ve looked at two disclosures today that had been sparked off by a flurry of FOI requests done following the publication of a national Crime Mapper webpage last year [blogged here]. […]

  • 5. Freesteel&hellip replies at 1st February 2011, 11:04 am :

    […] October 2009 I reported on the National crime mapper technology launched that day by the Policing and Crime Minister David […]

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