National database 'helps nab drug traffickers and paedophiles'
Improved intelligence from the Police National Database (PND) has helped the police tackle drug traffickers and protected children from being groomed on Facebook, says the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).
Since its inception in June last year to resolve intelligence failings identified during the inquiry into the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, the PND has change the way police and law enforcement agencies share locally held intelligence information.
Since its launch, more than 700,000 searches have been conducted on the PND and the police can now identify patterns of criminal behaviour much earlier says National Policing Improvement Agency chief executive Nick Gargan. He said: "The scale of use shows just how important the PND has become as a crime fighting tool in only a short period of time. It now provides police with a faster and automated system for sharing vital information.It is particularly poignant and re-assuring to reflect on its successes as we approach August and the tenth anniversary of the tragic events at Soham that led to the development of PND."
The value of the PND was demonstrated in the West Mercia force area in relation to a potential child abuse investigation, the NPIA said. After receiving allegations that a man had openly groomed a vulnerable teenage girl on Facebook, police investigators used the database to help them learn more about the suspect's previous offending behaviour. Officers were able to take action to safeguard the child and other potential future victims.
Detective Inspector Mark Colquhoun, of West Mercia's Force Intelligence Bureau, said: "One of the key benefits of PND is the immediacy of the information held within the system. By substantially reducing the delay in accessing other forces' data, PND enables us to respond more quickly, which means lower risk to the public and the earlier apprehension of offenders."
The PND was created by the NPIA - now set for abolitio - in partnership with the police service and IT supplier Logica. Working with Logica, the agency has implemented a series of upgrades to the PND to make it easier to identify and trace suspects from only limited information available to investigators. These include searches relating to an individual's description, such as distinguishing marks, height, gender or age, and other information linked directly to a suspect such as objects, locations or police records such as crime reports or custody information.
Gary Bullard, chief executive of Logica in the UK, said: "The Police National Database has made a real difference to police forces' ability to access intelligence information held across the UK."
However, privacy campaigners have raised concerns about the amount of data being held by the police.
Emma Carr, deputy director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said the rights and privacy of innocent people should be protected and there were concerns about what information could be retained on the database.
According to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) it is important that the development of such national systems should be subject to the fullest scrutiny and debate, with clear lines of responsibility for who is responsible for personal information and how long it stays on the database.