Battler Alan keeps alarm bell ringing
Posted on August 8, 2007
An Eaton Bray home owner has vowed to continue his battle with the district council over its alarm notification policy, and he is leading calls for a rethink.
Alan Woolridge, who has been one of South Beds District Council's most vocal critics since the measure was announced, said he was still unhappy about handing over crucial details about his keyholders.
He could potentially face an £80 on the spot fine, which would rise to £1,000 if it's not paid within 14 days.
As reported by the Gazette last week, enforcement of the council's controversial alarm notification area has started this month.
All burglar alarm owners with an alarm now have to pass contact details for their keyholders to the district council or face a fine.
The policy was introduced to cut down on the misery that constantly sounding alarms can cause, as it would give council officers a way to contact keyholders and get the alarms turned off.
Members of the council's envirocrime unit will be out and about this month, and if they spot an alarm that isn't registered they will give the owner seven days to comply.
But Mr Woolridge is worried that the council wants addresses for the people with keys to his home, and not just phone numbers.
He said yesterday: "The security of my front door key is mine and nobody else's, and I'm not prepared to say where it is."
And he added: "I don't object in principle to this initiative but I do object strongly to giving a keyholder's name and address.
"I have already provided four mobile telephone numbers including my own and thereby given far more options to resolve any problem that may occur."
The measure has also prompted concerns that it could become a handy resource for criminals if security is breached.
Mr Woolridge said that if the database got into the open, people without burglar alarms and people with dummy boxes would be easy to identify.
He said: "The people who are not apparently concerned by this are the people who don't have alarms.
"But the people who don't have alarms are the people who would be indirectly identified if this database got into the open.
"The people who have dummy boxes and who don't have alarms would be identified as having unsecured properties."
He has raised the matter with South West Beds MP Andrew Selous, who has been in touch with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
But the government has said it cannot step in over the dispute.
A letter from former environment minister Ben Bradshaw to Mr Selous dated June 26 said that under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, local authorities are at liberty to collect keyholder details.
It continued: "Databases which contain details of nominated keyholders are maintained in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. Local authorities have the power to retain keyholder details for audible intruder alarms as the people responsible for dealing with noise and with the power to deactivate intruder alarms.
"As such, Defra are not in the position to intervene in a situation between the local authority, who are responsible for enforcing the fine if they see fit, and the resident."
South Beds is the first authority in the UK to introduce the measure.
Yesterday a council spokesman said keyholders' addresses are taken to ensure that they live close enough to respond if an alarm goes off.
He added that the council is `fierce' with its Data Protection duties to prevent data being misused.
Source: Dave Burke, Dunstable Gazette, 8 August 2007
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