West Midlands Police have apologised after a notebook which contained details of people considered to be involved in or vulnerable to gang related activity was stolen from an unmarked police car.
West Midlands Police have stated they believe there is no connection to the notebook theft and blamed coronavirus restrictions for the increased gang crime.
Officers had left the car unattended while they chased a suspect on foot in the Ladywood area of Birmingham on May 29th.
Police have known about the breach since May.
Police have only recently publicly admitted it was stolen, after sending formal letters to people whose details were contained within the notebook and alongside offers of support.
The serious breach of sensitive personal information has also been reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
It’s suspected that the breach may have sparked a serious of violent crimes.
The theft is now being investigated by The Independent Office for Police Conduct.
A local community activist has told told the Birmingham Mail that there is a link between the theft and a number of violent crimes which have targeted gang members who were named within the notebook.
Bishop Desmond Jaddoo says he received unconfirmed information about a birthday card that was allegedly sent to one man whose details were included within the notebook.
The message inside the card is believed to have read “Happy Birthday – it will be your last.”
It is firmly believed by Bishop Desmond Jaddoo that the theft of the police notebook has sparked a series of violent and targeted crimes within the area after gang members were named.
Desmond Jaddoo told the Birmingham Mail: “The police have caused a public safety problem, they have placed pressure on individuals and placed pressure on housing authorities who may have to try to relocate certain people.Advertisement
“The full causation is with West Midlands Police and their negligence in handling very sensitive information. They have failed to safeguard the people,” he added.
West Midlands Police have denied the link and blame Coronavirus.
The West Midlands Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has denied the link and blamed the escalation in gang violence towards the end of June and the start of July as being linked to the lifting of the restrictions and not the theft of the notebook.
West Midlands Police have said clearly that they are unaware of any violence linked to the theft, and said it does not believe the incident has directly put anyone at risk.
Commenting on the incident, Assistant Chief Constable Danny Long said: “On May 29 a notebook containing rough notes on operational policing matters was taken from one of our unmarked cars in Birmingham.
“An investigation was immediately launched to determine any threat and risk posed to members of our community.
“A debrief was carried out with the officers involved so we could quickly determine what was contained within the notebook.
“Once this review was carried out we undertook a comprehensive intelligence assessment to understand if any of this information would pose a risk to any individuals.
“The notebook contained details of people assessed as being involved in, or vulnerable to gang related activities.
“We conducted a series of visits and sent formal letters to the people whose details were thought to be contained within the notebook, notifying them of the theft and offering support.”
ACC Long continued: “The officer involved was given management advice and we’ve been working to address our policies regarding how we use, store and destroy sensitive information.
“At present we do not know where the notebook is. The investigation into the theft is ongoing and we continue to monitor any potential risks within our communities and put the appropriate safeguarding in place.
“We are very sorry that this information found its way into the public domain. We manage highly sensitive information every day, which is vital in our fight against violent crime.
“We immediately put the relevant safeguarding in place and were open and transparent with the people who were involved. We did not feel it was appropriate to share this information any wider at the time, as that may have made the situation worse, or potentially put people at further risk.
“We will welcome the findings of the ICO report once completed and will take any recommendations on board.”