Pubs to access new ‘Facebook of crime’

Pubs to access new ‘Facebook of crime’

Article by Raymond Brown,

A ‘Facebook of crime’ is being launched to tackle troublemakers in Cambridge’s pubs and clubs.

The web pages are similar to those on the social networking site, but instead of ‘friends’, will hold the profiles of individuals who have been banned from bars and shops in the city.

The rogues’ gallery will feature a person’s details, relationships, other ‘friends’, comments about their behaviour and movements, as well as an image and video gallery – which can be seen by Cambridgeshire police officers.

The new version of the Sircs (Secure Incident Reporting and Community Engagement System) was showcased at the latest meeting of Cambridge Business Against Crime (Cambac) in the Tivoli pub, Chesterton Road and will go live next month.

It will be used by members of the group who can create a ‘profile page’ for each troublemaker barred from pubs, clubs and shops in the city and in Ely.

A description of the offender and any vehicles they drive will be posted on the website.

There will also be an ‘inbox’ for Cambac members, who are given login details to access the databank, to make comments and pass messages about the profiled individuals.

The system will allow venues to view reported incidents and add their own, which can then be seen by police and staff in more than 200 shops and venues in the two cities.

Michael James, IT and enterprise development manager for the non-profit company, Empowering Communities, which is behind the system, said: “It is a secure system and it can be shared with other cities. It can help licensees and retailers also create a map of hotspots in the city. Some people have said it is like Facebook.”

But privacy and civil rights campaigners fear the web-based system could turn city bouncers into “judge and jury”.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “Of course it’s right that bars and the police work together to catch violent criminals, but these systems must not be a way of unfounded accusations and gossip being spread around, or creating databases of information about people that has never been tested in court.

“People are innocent until proven guilty.”

Vicky Hornsby
, Cambac manager, said: “We are looking forward to the new, more user-friendly version to be launched here next month to help us reduce business crime in Cambridge, such as theft and anti-social behaviour, as the system also links to other towns in Cambridgeshire to prevent displacement of crime to other areas of the county.”

Cambac has been using an old version of the system since 2008.