I ran into Paul Ellis, Radlett resident and genius illustrator, outside Tesco yesterday. He told me he’s got a new web site. Paul’s a modest man but clearly immensely accomplished in practically any medium – from the most delicate pen and ink drawing up to a thirty foot wall-filling mural (nip out onto the smokers’ terrace at the back of The Railway on Watling Street for a quite mind-blowing example of the latter). His portfolio confirms this. He helped me with some beautiful comic book-style illustrations for a booklet we produced at Fair Field Junior School a year or so back and I’ve seen his work sell as quickly as he can hang it at the annual Radlett Art Society exhibition.
From his web site, I also learn that he’s illustrated a number of album covers, including one for the legendary Nick Drake.
The picture shows Paul at a fireworks display ages ago.
It wasn’t long ago that Radlett’s policy on kids hanging around up at the Phillimore Rec was to hire a security firm to move them on (a parish council leaflet boasted of the success of this policy) but that all changed last Summer when Hertsmere erected a clever shelter at the edge of the playing field. It’s a warm-toned wooden affair that acknowledges the need for teens (and pensioners, for that matter) to just hang out.
It’s not meant to provide real shelter from the elements but it’s got some seating and it’d probably protect you from a shower. It’s an intriguing enhancement to the park. Annick Collins is a partner in the small firm of architects that designed the shelter, Superblue. She emailed me to tell me that the Radlett shelter has been included in a ‘top ten’ list by architecture blog Architizer – alongside some quite awesome structures from all over the world. Since it’s reasonable to assume Hertsmere won’t be building anything like it for the foreseeable future, I think we should make the best of our one world-beating structure.
Pity the poor residents of Craig Mount – a not-particularly-long cul-de-sac in the South East corner of Radlett – victims (or at least witnesses), according to the new government crime map of the area, of 5 crimes in December alone. In that period, the data suggests, Craig Mount was the scene of one robbery, one vehicle crime, one violent crime and two ‘other’ crimes. Of course, it’s entirely possible that Craig Mount is Radlett’s crime hotspot, although it does seem unlikely (and there isn’t even a pub there). The doubts expressed in the 36 hours since the data went public suggest we might be seeing some ‘bunching’ of crimes for the sake of convenience or that some of these crimes may not have been crimes at all. Certainly it’s impossible to tell if any of them resulted in convictions – that data’s not here.
We are, of course, big fans of linked data from public sources but this particular release looks like it may have been bodged. Will Perrin – localism champion – on his King’s Cross blog highlights weaknesses with the data, including mapping inaccuracies that misplace crimes (he wonders why this government project isn’t using the excellent Ordnance Survey maps, recently opened up for purposes like this). More damning perhaps is the verdict of the database hackers and developers consulted in The Guardian. These are the people who’ve been pressing for the release of public data like this in usable forms and building applications on top of it. One of them points out that historic comparisons won’t be possible with the new release because only one month’s data will be available at any one time.
Adrian Short, one of the developers quoted, goes further and calls the exercise “pseudo-transparency”, and says that the site is “worse than useless”. Most of the big releases of public data we’ve seen from the data.gov.uk initiative have been received with at least qualified enthusiasm so it’s unsettling that this important block of data has been rubbished by the data jockeys.
So we’ll welcome the crime map but reserve judgement on its value at least until we’ve been convinced that it’s more than a political exercise – a settling of scores with intransigent police forces and the previous regime.
Type your postcode into the search field at police.uk for your own data. The results page provides some other useful information – the names of your beat coppers, for instance, and the dates of crime prevention events near you.