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8:45am on Tuesday, 1st February, 2011:

Gaming a System


There's a new service being offered by the police whereby you can type in any UK postcode and it will tell you what the level of crime is in that area. This is assuming it isn't day 1 of operation and you underestimated the demand from curious people typing in their postcode the one time in their entire life they will use this service.

(Wouldn't it be entirely more delicious if they'd put "investigating" instead of "looking into"?)

I do hope there's a way I can get them to send me monthly updates so I don't have to remember to launch the web site every time.

Anyway, the reason I'm mentioning this is that although it's supposed to be there to make the police more accountable to local communities, actually it's a gift to would-be thieves. They can look through for areas of low crime, working on the assumption that the people there have more stuff worth stealing and less burglary protection "because this is a really safe neighbourhood".

Ah, but wait! What if the police are being cunning? What if they expect that few people will use their service very often after the first few days, and they've put software on it monitoring usage afterwards? If they see someone looking up 30 or 40 postcodes in the course of half an hour, might that not suggest that you were planning some nefarious deed? Perhaps a visit from a local bobby might discourage you? Or, if that sounds too much like the web site is being used for entrapment, maybe they should just use it for post-crime evidence collection? If someone breaks into a property in a low-risk area, might not a search of the database discover whether or not the property was cased remotely?

Ah, but knowing that a property has been looked at and knowing who looked at it are two different things. The police may know someone has looked at the crime levels in villages in and around Colchester, but they don't know who that someone is.

Except, they do. How? Well what's the very first postcode that anyone is ever going to type into this system? Yes, that's right: their own.

I don't think our police actually are this cunning, though. Well, they may be, but the cost of developing such a system would undoubtedly and inexplicably have cost so many million pounds that it would have been cancelled at great cost the public purse after 6 years of work.

Oh, and I finally did manage to get the web site to accept my post code while I was typing this. Here is the result:

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).