Eaton Bray campaigner Alan Woolridge said he feels like a celebrity as his battle against the council's....
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Burglar alarms battler rings a bell with public

Posted on August 22, 2007

This article was published in August 2007. Please see Latest News for more recent information.

Eaton Bray campaigner Alan Woolridge said he feels like a celebrity as his battle against the council's alarm notification strategy gains momentum.

He has been featured on television and radio programmes in the past week, and says people have congratulated him in the streets for making a stand.

But chiefs at South Beds District Council say they cannot work out why the policy has created such a fuss.

As reported previously, South Beds is the first district to have an alarm notification area introduced.

All burglar alarm owners face £80 on-the-spot fines if they do not hand over details of their keyholders, and this could rise to up to £1,000 if the council takes them to court.

It was introduced so that if an alarm sounds, council officers could contact keyholders to silence it.

Councillor David McVicar, who has special responsibility for the environment, said: "It's an issue that shouldn't have caused all the problems it has.

"It was a thing that was put into place to help, and it's ended up being a stick with which we're being beaten."

He said councillors chose to implement government legislation to combat the nuisance that alarms can cause.

On average, problems arise once a fortnight, and Mr McVicar said: "It's a huge number when people are being driven mad."

And he continued: 'At one stage it was down to the police to hold a voluntary database but that fell into disrepair. People would phone us up and say: 'There's an alarm going off'.

If that happened, Peter Jones, corporate service manager, said council officers had to obtain a warrant, a locksmith, a police officer and an alarm engineer to gain access to the home.

Mr Jones said that with all costs being transferred to the householder, it could work out very expensively. And he added that keyholder details have already been used to get alarms turned off quickly.

"Something that would have taken hours of annoyance was dealt with by one phone call," he stated.

A lot of the controversy has been about the security of the information the council collects.

Mr Woolridge has said he is prepared to submit mobile phone numbers for his keyholders, but not names and addresses.

But Mr Jones said: "The advantage of having a name and address and a phone number for the keyholder is we've got a better chance of getting hold of them."

He added that under the government legislation in place, addresses have to be collected.

Critics have said that the keyholder database could be a massive resource for criminals if it fell into the wrong hands.

In response, Mr McVicar said that the council has never had a problem with data being compromised in the past.

He stated: "No security is 100 per cent, but as far as this council is concerned, we've never lost a piece of data."

He said that the council already has huge databases containing enormous amounts of data about people living in South Beds, from benefits information to council tax and the electoral roll.

All officers with access to the keyholder database are CRB checked, and Mr McVicar said: "I would never question the integrity of our officers."

An online petition about the measure was loaded by Mr Woolridge onto the 10 Downing Street website. As the Gazette went to press more than 70 householders had signed it.

Source: Dunstable Gazette, 22 Aug 2007

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