UCL Innovation and Enterprise


Interactive map will help to ensure that crime doesn’t pay

1 November 2011

Witness Confident has set itself a tough task: reducing the level of violent street crime in two London boroughs by a fifth before mid decade. The charity, which encourages the public to take a stand and bear witness, rather than turn a blind eye, needed help to develop an interactive Google map which could see police, victims, witnesses and the general public working together to prevent and solve crime.

They approached HELO, who found student Martin Kolar. He has continued to work on an ad hoc basis with Witness Confident while undertaking larger and more technically complex projects as a paid consultant.

Witness Confident Police

Last year 80% of all violent street crime in the UK went unreported or unresolved. Witness Confident, a charity that is taking a stand against the walk-on-by culture, is looking to change that, by promoting greater public participation in the prevention and solution of crime. One way of doing this is through innovative use of technology, such as an interactive Google map which will be piloted in the London boroughs of Hackney and Islington in summer 2011. 

Director Guy Dehn knew he would need specialist programming advice for a map that would offer a practical solution to the problems identified in the government’s online crime maps, launched with much fanfare in early 2011. He approached the HELO team at the suggestion of a colleague, UCL student Adam Evans, and they matched the charity with Martin Kolar, a computer science graduate who had already completed an interactive arts project with filmmaker George Butler, which explored young people’s views about living on the South Coast.

Martin wrote the coding for a map that allows police and victims to put out calls for witnesses; witnesses to easily find the right police officer; victims and witnesses to communicate securely with the police; and the public to get a fair view of the risk of street violence in their area.

He says: “It’s very useful to find opportunities such as those offered by HELO. I not only acquired new technical skills, but I also learnt how to evaluate my worth to the market, how to present myself and how to work in a team.” Martin is continuing to work with Witness Confident on maintenance of the site streetviolencemap.org. He is also a paid consultant on a large scheduling project for London entrepreneur and UCL Advances associate Abdul Rahim, which allows SMEs to cooperate through networks.

Guy Dehn believes that, along with the charity’s other initiatives, the map will help reduce the level of street violence in these communities by 20% in four years. He says: “I can’t praise the HELO team highly enough for their competence, professionalism and friendliness. A lot of credit will be due to Adam and Martin when we reach our goal.”