A CONTROVERSIAL new crime mapping system has been slammed – after Lakeside shopping centre was named the most crime-ridden place in Thurrock.

The online map shows 143 reports of crime and anti-social behaviour were made at the centre last December.

This included two robberies, three burglaries, 13 violent offences, five cases of vehicle crime and 19 reports of antisocial behaviour.

The remaining 101 incidents fall into the “other” category which can include everything from shoplifting and theft to sex offences.

The category is so wide-ranging to prevent the identification of victims.

However, the nationwide crime map has been widely criticised as highlighting the country’s high streets and shopping centres as the worst-hit areas simply because of the number of people who visit them.

An Essex Police spokesman said they actually experienced a 29 per cent reduction in crimes committed at Lakeside last year.

She added: “Lakeside Shopping Centre and the adjoining retail parks are visited by hundreds of people every day, from across the region, not just from Essex.

“The crime data for Lakeside does not include any residential streets.

“The force runs a number of operations at Lakeside at various times during the year, most recently Operation Christmas Presence, to tackle crime at the shopping centre and the surrounding retail parks and road network.”

In Grays, the most crime was committed in the High Street with 13 offences, followed by Bexhill Drive with 11.

The police spokesman added: “In Grays High Street, we have been running various operations to combat antisocial behaviour and alcohol-related crime by working with Thurrock Council to implement a no-alcohol zone.

“Along with our regular patrols at this location, this has seen incidents of crime reduce significantly.”

The map, which covers every street in England, reveals Grays, Purfleet and West Thurrock have above average crime rates.

However, Tilbury, South Ockendon, Stanford-le-Hope, Corringham, Chadwell-St-Mary and Aveley were classed as average.

The worst-affected street in Purfleet was Dolphin Way with eight offences, while in Stanford-le-Hope it was Central Road with 12.