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
    agencies.

    “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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