Unfortunately parts of the old murdermap website will disappear this week after nearly nine years’ service.
The main reason for this decision is that the site was based on a content management system (created by the original developers) that is no longer being supported.
Regular users will also have noticed that the map stopped working properly after Google brought in its new pricing plan in July 2018 and effectively ended the free Maps API service.
The choices were, therefore, leave the website up to deteriorate until it goes down completely (or, worse, gets hacked), or replace it.
Sadly it is also clear that the site is no longer sustainable in terms of time and resources. There are many reasons for this, but in reality the project was hamstrung from the start because it was based on the (unrealistic) idea that it could be funded by online advertising. It has only ever earned enough money to pay for hosting fees and most of the time the site has been maintained by one court reporter (although the information it contains is based on the work of many other people).
So what next?
Since murdermap began in 2010, the site’s database has grown to include more than 1,600 victims of homicide (including both murder and manslaughter, mostly for the years 2008-2018).
This database will not be lost. It has been saved offline and is likely to return in a different form at some point. And most of the original webpages have already been archived on the Wayback Machine.
After the original site comes down, it will be replaced by the murdermap blog while other avenues are explored. Crowdfunding may be difficult because running a site like this properly, with in-depth reporting of each murder in London, would require significant annual investment (see the Homicide Watch website in Washington DC for one example). Likewise turning murdermap into a subscriber-only site might be self-defeating, given that it was originally set up with the aim of publicly and openly tracking each and every murder – not just the high-profile cases that already attract media attention – to reveal the stories behind the crime statistics.
While murdermap had many frustrating flaws from the very start, hopefully this site has helped to inform the debate around violent crime in London. And even if murdermap disappears completely, in recent years there has been a greater focus on homicides and violent crime in London. During 2018 several national newspapers maintained lists of homicide victims in the capital and produced in-depth articles using maps and charts (one example being The Guardian). The Office for National Statistics is also providing a lot more detail about homicides than it did ten years ago. Long may this continue.