Police force defends caller database

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The Independent Online

A police force today defended its policy of storing personal information relating to thousands of innocent callers saying it was in line with national guidelines.

It emerged North Yorkshire Police logs information on a computer database giving details of more than 180,000 people who have reported information including their date of birth and ethnicity.

The vast majority of those on the database have not committed any crime.

Privacy campaigners have questioned the need for compiling such a database and said they are concerned about the possibility of mixing up records of criminals with those of innocent members of the public.

The practice came to light following a Freedom of Information request by The Press newspaper, in York.

But the force said it was working to government recommendations along with many other constabularies across the UK and callers were not compelled to give the information.

In a statement, Assistant Chief Constable Sue Cross said: "To be very clear on this issue, it is categorically wrong to suggest that the Niche records management system North Yorkshire Police uses is in any way a secret database.

"This system is used by many police forces in the UK and internationally to record all information relevant to policing, everything from details of arrested individuals, suspects, victims, witnesses and sources of information as well as addresses, phone numbers and vehicles.

"The information logged and cross-referenced in the system is absolutely vital to allow us to provide the effective policing service that the people of North Yorkshire and the City of York demand.

"Data quality is an essential factor in being effective, which is precisely why we request that individuals who come into contact with North Yorkshire Police provide additional information regarding their date of birth and ethnicity. This is in line with statutory guidance issued by the Secretary of State to all police forces under the Code of Practice for the Management of Police Information 2010, which also provides the guidance to all police forces in relation to the retention periods of police information."

Ms Cross said providing the information was "completely voluntary" and was desirable "to create a unique person record which can help to accurately identify repeat callers who may be subject of ongoing problems with crime and anti social behaviour or other issues such as domestic violence".

She added: "This type of information is crucial in our efforts to tackle and prevent crime and anti-social behaviour, not least in protecting and supporting victims who often find themselves in the most distressing and dangerous situations in which police intervention is the only hope."