Nothing Personal

Paul Pan, principal investigator for Project Dragon at the Welsh
assembly, goes to great lengths to emphasise that no personal
information on his antisocial behaviour database will be exchanged.

It is understandable why he is so keen to do so. Ever since news of
the database was first reported at the start of the year some
social care groups have raised concerns it could compromise
confidentiality between social workers and their clients.

Pan says these concerns are unfounded and based on a
misunderstanding of how Project Dragon will work.

It had been thought the database would enable the exchange of
information about individuals who had been convicted of, and
suspected to be involved in, acts of antisocial behaviour. In fact,
Pan says personal information, such as a person’s name or address,
can be put on the database but is not allowed to be shared between

“The location, time and description of an incident can be shared
but not a person’s name, even if the police have arrested
somebody,” he says. “You can’t exchange personal information
regularly under the Data Protection Act 1998 – if you are going to
do that it has to be on the individual merits of each case – but
we’re not looking at that at the moment.”

The database will allow antisocial behaviour case officers at
councils, the police, fire authorities and housing associations to
input and view information stored – only ASB officers can view the
personal information included on their organisations’ section of
the database.

All 22 councils in Wales will be able to access the project from
April but only 12 will be able to share data initially. The scheme
is voluntary, but most councils are expected to take part. Each
participant can decide what data they want to input and what kinds
of data – if any – to allow other agencies to view.

“Non-personal data can be exchanged under very strict control,” he
says. “Agencies have agreed strict data exchange rules which
control this, underwritten by a legal document.

“Access may be limited to only one or two people per organisation
who will have individual passwords. We will know who they are and
monitor access. If we’re not convinced they need access to
particular shared data we’ll ask why they need it. Security will be
as good as that used for online banking.”

Pan says it is up to individual organisations whether they want him
to interpret, analyse and facilitate the sharing of the data with
other agencies. To concerns raised by some that it will mean extra
work for council staff because they will be inputting data into
both their internal recording systems and Project Dragon, he simply
says, “I doubt that will happen.”

Pan’s main role will be to help agencies identify “patterns”
developing in the reported incidents of antisocial behaviour.

“My job is to bring out these patterns – if we think there’s a
pattern then agencies collectively can do something about it. It
allows agencies to see a pattern of certain things happening at
certain times in certain areas.”

For example, there could be regular instances of antisocial
behaviour happening outside certain pubs or youth clubs or a spate
of vandalism of bus stops, he says. These instances would then be
plotted on area maps to see if and how they were linked.

Pan says: “Agencies don’t have to share patterns with other
agencies if they don’t want to.” But, he says: “One of the main
obstacles to tackling antisocial behaviour is a lack of data
sharing. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 allows agencies to share
information to reduce crime. After all, if different parts of the
system don’t know what’s going on in an area how can you get a
multi-agency response.”

Pan says the information stored could be used as evidence when the
police and councils apply for Asbos, but emphasises again it won’t
compromise professionals’ relationships with their clients.

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