New U.K. site maps muggings, street violence

StreetViolence.org is a U.K. site on which people who have been mugged can help others avoid certain high-risk areas by mapping the location of the crimes. Does this remind some of Microsoft's "Avoid Ghetto" patent?

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When you've been the victim of a mugging--or merely a witness to one--one instinct might be to warn others.

But how can you do that? It's not as if a Facebook posting saying: "Hey, I've been mugged on Main Street" will necessarily help.

So a nonprofit organization in the U.K. has created a site that brings all mugging information to one place: StreetViolence.org.

Launched yesterday, the site attempts to collate all mugging information into one single Google map (the site is initially London-only), so that those with any interest can warn others, report crimes and even thank good Samaritans who happened to help.

Oddly, in the presentation of the site on its home page, the first example the creators used was of someone who witnesses a mugging, but is too busy to do something about it. Public-spiritedness is a dangerous thing anyway.

Indeed, the creators--a charity called Witness Confident--say that the site attempts to campaign against "the 'walk on by' culture that fuels street violence, feeds fear, and fractures communities."

Some will wonder whether part of the "walk on by" culture is also to be found among some police officers, who perhaps view mugging as a low-level crime. The site claims that suspects in street robberies are only arrested 15 per cent of the time.

The U.K. sees more than a million attacks every year and Witness Confident says that the fear of being mugged is seven times greater than the actual risk. This site allows people to follow muggings they witnessed, experienced, or merely heard about, all through the stages of potential prosecution.

This initiative might remind some of Microsoft's so-called "Avoid Ghetto" patent , which some critics felt would stigmatize certain areas in which violence appeared prevalent.

In both cases, the idea that certain areas would immediately become places to avoid at all cost will disturb some and relieve others.

People being as they are, one wonders whether muggers will also log on to StreetViolence.org in order to effect maximum surprise in places where people might least expect.

That's the thing with technology. It serves good. It serves evil.

 

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