South Wales Police has confirmed it is developing a national database that will record and store reports of anti-social behaviour (ASB).
The database, which was due to go live on 10 September last year, reportedly failed penetration tests as recently as 23 February. These test the database's defences against unauthorised access and hackers.
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The existence of the database was leaked when an alleged offender received a warning letter, seen by Computer Weekly, from a South Wales Police inspector.
In a footnote the letter stated, "You should be aware that these details will be placed in an anti-social behaviour database which holds information relating to those involved in such behaviour."
It went on to say that the information would be held in accordance with the Data Protection Act (DPA), and added it "may be shared with partner agencies if this is necessary to prevent crime and disorder, as permitted by the Crime and Disorder Act of 1998".
Spokesmen from the Home Office, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the National Policing Improvement Agency all said they were unaware that the database existed.
An ICO spokesman said the ICO would not expect to be consulted unless the developers thought there was a chance it might breach the DPA.
Spokesmen for South Wales Police confirmed the existence of the database, but said it was not yet operational. One said a meeting scheduled for Monday (7 March) could provide a new go-live date.
A report, seen by Computer Weekly, from the South Wales Police Authority Community Engagement Group, stated, "The new ASB database is a partnership initiative between South Wales Police, the seven community safety partnerships and the Welsh Assembly government.
"When commissioned, the database will allow for a holistic approach to the sharing of ASB data between all agencies by the use of an internet carried data system. This will result in a more efficient and effective process of identifying repeat/vulnerable victims and will provide a better service to the communities of South Wales," it said.
"The new ASB database is due to be handed over on 10 September 2010 for a week of system testing to commence. Any issues identified during the testing period will be rectified by the service provider's development team prior to the final handover of the system."
Safer South Wales, a police/community coordination group, expected to hear a progress report on 13 September 2010, three days after the go-live date. The meeting was to cover "the emerging policy principles and the outstanding challenges (including data recording and exchange)".
A survey last year by the South Wales Community Engagement Group found that 80% of residents supported action against anti-social behaviour. "The results showed that tackling drug-related crime, dealing with anti-social behaviour and visibility of police officers were the top priorities," it said.
A request for "basic command unit" funds for activities between April 2010 and March 2011 included "supporting the continued development of partnerships to help deliver ASB reduction locally and to support the ongoing costs of the national ASB database".
Lord Corbett of Castle Vale has asked the government what financial and other assistance South Wales Police received from the Home Office, Acpo and other departments or agencies in designing and building the database, and how many records it could hold.
He also asked, "Which police forces in England and Wales maintain databases or other record-keeping systems holding details of alleged anti-social behaviour by persons who have not been arrested, cautioned, prosecuted or convicted of such activities; and at what rank officers are authorised to make such records?"