Hate crime app could be the start of something big
A smartphone app to help people report hate crime incidents to police has won £25,000 in this year's Ordnance Survey GeoVation Challenge. The challenge supports entrepreneurs developing digital tools to improve neighbourhoods using Ordnance Survey mapping information.
Matthew Green, project manager at the hate crime reporting app's developers Ideal For All, an independent living organisation for disabled people based in the West Midlands, said little hate crime data is currently available, and it is not localised: "I can tell you what the stats are for the West Midlands, but not for wards or neighbourhoods within Birmingham, for example.
Another problem is the data is very old - the latest data officially released is from 2008. "But what we know about hate crime incidents is they happen in a place, they build and then they move on elsewhere".Examples of location-based issues might centre on a group of regfugees who have recently moved into an area, or incidents on public transport when kids are coming home from school.
"We're trying to provide high resolution data in real time, so local authorities and their partners can see what is happening and do something about it," Green said. The app model is cost-effective, he said. "When you look at other models for reporting, people sitting in buildings or end of phone line, so they are inherently expensive.
The project is not without challenges, including the need not to make matters worse by exposing individuals to more unwanted attention, Green said. "We are thinking about how to anonymise data to the point where sharing is not a risk to people submitting the data - it is a bit of an issue, but we think something we can work around."
The police have been very supportive of the project, he said - the app itself is built around the Association of Chief Police Officers' own specification for the data they need to go and investigate an incident - and ultaimtely the model could have a wider range of applications.
"We see clear parallel between hate crime and domestic abuse - for example, both tend to begin with small incidents and build over time. So if we make some headway in terms of hate crime reporting, and the app becomes an accepted mechanism, there's no reason why its focus can't be shifted to other areas of priority."
Stage one of the project will use the geolocation and audio and video recording capabilities of smartphone platforms to create evidence and reports, and in a later stage, the project will explore the potential to use Bluetooth connected "panic buttons" to remotely and discreetly trigger audio, video and geolocation recording capabilities to allow for safe real-time gathering of evidence.
The app is one of three runners-up in this year's GeoVation Challenge.
First prize of £40,000 development funding was won by "Community Payback Visibility", a mobile app from the Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation Trust allowing people to nominate local sites for offenders to work on and keep track of how projects are progressing. Users will be able to send in geo-tagged photos of areas they want to nominate for Community Payback - unpaid work carried out by offenders on community sentences.
The two other runners-up were "Residents' Green Space Mapper", a tool which helps residents to survey their area and find new community green spaces, and "Sustaination", a tool which links up local food enterprises to increase use of local food and cut waste.
GeoVation Challenge https://challenge.geovation.org.uk