Another New Phone Number for Cambridgeshire Police


Wednesday, June 13th, 2012. 3:20pm


Cambridgeshire Police Have Launched A New Number for Reporting Drink and Drug Driving.

Cambridgeshire Police Have Launched A New Number for Reporting Drink and Drug Driving.

Last week Cambridgeshire Police announced the launch of a new confidential number to report drink driving.

My view is that creating yet another phone number to contact the police on is misguided and unhelpful. I attend many public meetings at which policing matters are discussed confusion surrounding how best to contact the police is often a top matter discussed. I am favour of the simple:

  • 101 for all non-emergency contact.
  • 999 for emergencies where life is in danger or a serious crime is in progress.

In addition I understand the need for, and support the existence of, the work of the charity CrimeStoppers who provide an independent route for making anonymous reports of crime to the police via their number:

  • 0800 555 111

Personally when I’ve called the police anonymously I’ve used a phone box. (I’ve opted to do on this on occasion when reporting illegal and dangerous use of motor vehicles by children on on the streets near where I live, because I found that making reports in person resulted in the police visiting, and causing a nuisance to, me rather than than tackling those committing offenses which put their and others’ lives in danger.)

In some limited circumstances I can see that officers giving out individual mobile numbers might be desirable, (eg. it has worked well where I live on Halloween) however in general I’m not keen on this and think contact via 101 is preferable and the contact details more enduring.

The New Drink Driving Number

It is not clear to me what role the new confidential number to report drink driving is to play. Neither the ECops announcements or the force web page on the number explain what the difference is between using the number and calling 101 but not giving your name.

If the new number if being advertised, as it is, as “confidential” I think the police ought be clear about on what basis this assurance of confidentiality can be given. Where are calls to the number directed? If they are answered by the police are staff trained not to request personal information from the caller, and trained not to record any identifying information inadvertently given? Are there technical measures in place to ensure the police cannot access the number the call was made from?

I have searched the Police Authority website and cannot find any evidence they have discussed or approved the introduction of the new number, or the protocols, procedures and contracts surrounding its use. I think the Police Authority should have ensured they were consulted, and ought to have vetoed the creation of the new number.

My view is that while the recent, and ongoing, anti drink-driving campaign is excellent, it should have encouraged the use of the existing ways to contact the police and not involved the creation of a new number. Cambridgeshire police have changed their contact phone a number of times recently, I think they should stick to 101/999 as these will hopefully prove possible to maintain in the long term.

The police say the new number is being piloted for three months. I think this shows how silly the exercise is, people write down and record contact numbers and keep them, they are printed on material which often outlasts the numbers, for example I had a Cambridgeshire Police promotional magnet on my fridge for years containing one of their previous non-emergency numbers, when I came to want to use it the number was dead.

17 comments/updates on “Another New Phone Number for Cambridgeshire Police

  1. Adam B

    I think the question should be why the police are not able to guarantee anonymity (on request) for all callers to 999 and 101.

  2. Gerry Dorrian

    very good point about the numbers expiring before the materials they’re printed on deteriorating; I wonder how much this costs?

    In New Zealand they target drink-drivers by sealing off 20-mile sections of road and testing everybody on that stretch. Anybody who fails a test or causes concern goes to be processed in the “booze bus” – I think Cambs is going in the direction of the bus at least.

  3. Dave

    I’ve read the response, Richard, and it indicates that this is a number they trot out for campaigns.
    Seems odd that they can just set these things up without writing anything down. The real problem is how to prevent malicious reports I would have thought.

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    So the number isn’t any more confidential than calling 101 or 999.

    Link to the FOI response

    The response also reveals it is not a new number. The police have lied on their page at:
    http://www.cambs.police.uk/roadsafety/drinkdriving.asp
    which states:

    The number launched on June 1 to coincide with the force’s summer drink and drug drive enforcement campaign. The campaign runs until the end of June, while the confidential hotline will be piloted for three-months.

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    Cambridgeshire Police have today encouraged those with information relating to the April 2012 Fitzwilliam Museum burglary to contact them using an email address of the form:

    confidentialinfo at inbox.com

    http://www.cambs.police.uk/news/newsitem.asp?NewsID=7568

    The nature of the email address itself; and the way it has been introduced by the police in the media, has suggested it is a route via which people can contact the police in-confidence.

    I have submitted a FOI request for details of any protocols, contracts, technical measures etc. inplace to ensure the confidentially of reports made via the email address.

    I would have thought pointing people to Crime Stoppers, who run an anonymous online form, would have been more appropriate:

    http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org/

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      The response to the FOI request states:

      Cambridge Police has no recorded information regarding this e-mail address provided on the reward advertisement .

      So how did the address end up on the police website, and in a police press release?

      Was the police website hacked?

      What happened to emails sent to the address?

      Did a rogue officer set up the email address and personally receive information sent to it?

      Has informants’ personal information been compromised?

      The email address the force claim to have no information about is currently still published on the force website.

  6. Rupert Moss-Eccardt

    This is perplexing. Has this been deliberately set up so the source of any incoming message is untraceable? I’m not sure how this fits with US legislation.

    How does the DPA work? If the data owner is the police then the Security Policy Framework and, by extension, the Official Secrets Act 87, come into play. If not, then it should be made clear that inbox.com will own the data.

    No matter what, it is clear that the always poor Information Assurance regime at Cambs is worsening. Beds and Herts may have to stop working with Cambs soon to avoid legal complications.

    The Cabinet Office is talking tough about disconnecting Authorities that don’t meet the Code of Connection from the PSN but I don’t think Francis Maude has the courage to cut off a police force which means that the whole of the law enforcement community is vulnerable as a result of poor compliance here.

  7. Richard Taylor Article author

    While on the subject of phone numbers for Cambridgeshire Police, I note that in Morrisons supermarket in Cambourne, very prominently positioned in the foyer is a large notice which gives the wrong phone number for the police:

    photo of sign giving wrong phone number

    The non emergency number is now “101″. This notice has even been moved from behind the checkouts since the number became out of date.

    I have mentioned this before, in August 2012, in the context of the local police priority setting meeting.

    At Cambridge’s Community Safety Partnership meeting on 30 April 2013 the Police and Crime Commissioner sent his “Chief Executive” who before the meeting started told those present that she visited the Morrisons Supermarket in Cambourne on a regular basis now that she was working from South Cambridgeshire District Council offices. I wonder if she has noticed the glaring error and alerted the Police and Crime Commissioner that the police are not even getting the basics of publishing their correct phone number right in the town where the commissioner has decided to set up his office.

  8. Richard Taylor Article author

    The Ely Standard is today running an article: Dozens call confidential line to shop drink drivers as arrests increase it quotes Inspector Mark Rogers of Cambridgeshire Police as saying:

    it is encouraging to see so many members of the public getting behind the campaign and calling the confidential line.

    He gives the number as 0800 032 0845 which is the same as the one mentioned in the above article.

    Have the police changed the way they handle calls to this number or are they still misleading people about its confidential nature?

  9. Richard Taylor Article author

    The force have an internal whistleblowing hotline which they claim is confidential

    Officers reportedly have no confidence it is in-fact confidential. This is perhaps not-surprising given the way they’ve misled the public over the nature of the drink-drive reporting hotline.

  10. Richard Taylor Article author

    Crimestoppers are this year promoting their own number, which they claim really is confidential:

    “Crimestoppers never asks for your name or personal details, we cannot trace calls or track information given online and we do not record our calls.”

    http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Christmas-campaign-shop-drink-driver/story-25076266-detail/story.html

    The police however are still promoting their own number as confidential:

    It may of course be the police have introduced technology and policies to ensure that their number is truly confidential.

  11. Richard Taylor Article author

    The police now appear to be claiming there is a protocol to provide some degree of anonymity. Presumably if the FOI request was repeated information might now be held.

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