Report a Crime and End Up on a Secret Database; Callers Asked Their Ethnicity and Age
Byline: Rebecca Camber
TENS of thousands of innocent members of the public who report crimes are having their personal details stored on a 'secret' police database.
Those calling 999 about an incident or witnesses to crimes are routinely being asked for their ethnicity and date of birth, it has emerged.
The details are being kept without their knowledge on a 'Big Brother' file - where thousands of suspected criminals' details are also held.
On the database of one force alone, the personal details of 180,000 people who phoned police were recorded - four times more than the number of suspected criminals listed on the site.
North Yorkshire Police's information management system contained data on 181,917 innocent informants, 38,259 suspects and 107,566 victims recorded as aggrieved or 'vulnerable aggrieved'.
The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, have outraged privacy campaigners who say that many people will refuse to report crimes if they think their personal details are being kept.
But North Yorkshire Police claim they are simply following national guidance, raising fears that many other forces may be doing the same. The information is held for a minimum of 15 years, and can be stored for up to 100 years in the most serious cases.
Personal details can also be passed from North Yorkshire Police to other forces.
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. '
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.'
A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police confirmed that callers are routinely asked their name, date of birth and ethnicity.
Assistant Chief Constable Sue Cross said it was 'categorically wrong' to suggest that the force was operating a 'secret database'. …