Reporting a crime puts you on a police database

It makes perfect sense for the police to keep records on all the criminals they encounter but is it justifiable for the details of innocent members of public to be stored on a database, alongside the criminals, simply for reporting a crime? North Yorkshire Police seem to think so. Their database currently contains more innocent people's details than criminals.

Top related searches:
  1. Police database
  2. North Yorkshire Police
  3. 999
  4. Reporting crimes
  5. No2ID
  6. Privacy International
  7. National Policing Improvement Agency
  8. Contacting the police
  9. Anonymous informant
  10. Reporting suspicious activity
When members of the public dial 999, they are routinely asked about their ethnicity and date of birth. These details are then stored in a database along with criminals' and victims' details.

North Yorkshire Police's database contains details of 181,917 members of the public who reported crimes, compared to 38,259 suspects and 107,566 victims, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act. Privacy campaigners fear that people will be reluctant to report crimes in future if they believe that their details will be stored in a database.

Gus Hosein, of pressure group Privacy International, said: "I cannot understand what kind of relationship they are trying to establish with the public where now a member of the public has to worry about approaching the police for fear of being put on a secret database with suspects.

"I never thought this would happen in this country. It's like Big Brother."

Other campaigners believe that storing innocent people's details alongside criminals could result in mistakes and confusion.

Phil Booth, of the campaign NO2ID, said: "This is a database that intermingles criminal suspects with victims, with random members of the public. There is potential for some sort of mix-up."

North Yorkshire Police confirmed that people reporting crimes were asked for their name, ethnicity and date of birth, in accordance with national guidance. This implies that other police forces are doing the same thing. And different police forces are able to share information with each other.

The data they collect can be stored for a minimum of 15 years, and in more serious cases it can be stored for up to 100 years.

Assistant Chief Constable Sue Cross of the North Yorkshire Police defended the collection of data and claimed that it was "categorically wrong" to think that the police had a "secret database".

She said: "Data quality is an essential factor in being effective, which is why we request that individuals who come into contact with North Yorkshire Police provide additional information regarding their date of birth and ethnicity.

"Whilst this is completely voluntary on the part of each person, this desirable information allows the police 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."

The National Policing Improvement Agency said that information about informants is important but only in proportion to the offence, so more details of witnesses and informants would be necessary in a murder case than shoplifting.

Would you be reluctant to report a crime knowing that your details would be stored on a police database? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.