A website offering a breakdown of crime in the West Midlands has been launched by police in an attempt to make the public feel safer.

The site - www.myneighbourhood.info - has been described as an "online crime mapping system" and gives detailed information on a range of crimes.

The site, which cost £90,000 to set up, allows users to view statistics for their neighbourhood, based on a postcode search.

The figures are broken down for each local Operational Command Units (OCU), with data uploaded on a monthly basis direct from police databases.

Generally, each OCUs contain about 10 neighbourhoods and the maps give detailed information based on an area of about 150 households per search.

The website offers up-to-date information on house burglary, criminal damage, wounding, robbery, theft of motor vehicles, from a person and pedal cycles, other motor vehicle crimes, common assault and other crimes.

Assistant Chief Constable Suzette Davenport said: "There is often a gap between the level of crime the public think is happening in their neighbourhood and the actual crime levels.

"This website is about being open and honest with the public about real crime levels, supplying communities with facts which will hopefully help them realise crime levels are not as high as they had feared."

City councillor Martin Mullaney (Lib Dem Moseley and Kings Heath) praised the "fascinating" site and said it was a "very impressive piece of software". "It shows a massive drop in crime in the last year in my ward," he said. "When you look at other wards and you compare it, that is really good.

"It took a while to understand so it could be made a tad bit easier but I could spend hours on this.

"As a councillor, it gives us an idea of where we have got problems and so we can focus on where we have potential hotspots. It is a useful tool and I am very impressed."

But Coun Deidre Alden (Con Edgbaston) dismissed the scheme as a "gimmick" and highlighted a number of problems. She said it was hard to navigate and did not feature information for all areas in the force area.

"I think it is a gimmick that doesn't even work," she said. "In my case, when I put up my postcode, nothing came up and then it just said Harborne East and did not have any figures.

"It had the right area but then when there are supposed to be figures, it is all blank.

"I think most people would rather their resources were spent on police on the streets fighting crime and they won't bother with this website.

"How many people are going to access that? It probably won't be up-to-date anyway. It seems to me that it is money wasted on a gimmick when most people would rather it was spent on fighting crime."

At a meeting of the West Midlands Police Authority yesterday,, Chief Constable Sir Paul Scott-Lee said work on the website would be carried out to sort out any problems.

He said: "There is nothing in the country like it but it is probably two-thirds of where it needs to be."