England’s second biggest police force has been accused of jeopardising lives after a notebook packed with confidential intelligence on gangs was stolen from a police car.
The information includes details of West Midlands police operations and a list of people associated or in the orbit of gangs.
The notebook remains missing more than four months after it was taken from the back of an unmarked car.
A community leader in Birmingham told the Mail last night the force has offered to rehouse some of those named.
Desmond Jaddoo said he believed the breach had triggered a rise in violent crime in the city.
He said he has heard from families of people named in the book who have since been threatened, including the parents of a 14-year-old boy.
West Midlands Police had a notebook filled with confidential information on gangs around Birmingham stolen from the back of one of its cars
The embarrassing episode comes two and a half years after the force’s Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale was sacked after leaving top secret documents in the boot of his car, which were then stolen.
The notebook contained part of the force’s ‘Gang Matrix’, a controversial list of suspected gang members and associates used by police forces.
It was stolen on May 29 after officers from the gangs unit left the car unattended when they went on a footchase in the Ladywood area of Birmingham.
The force has referred itself to the police watchdog and the information commissioner amid fears the notebook has found its way into the hands of organised criminals and is fuelling violence.
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.’
The notebook is understood to have contained information about vehicles used by suspected gang members and their associates, as well as relevant addresses, mobile phone numbers and identifying features.
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.’
The force believes that the blunder did not ‘directly’ put anyone in risk but is ‘continuing to monitor potential risks’ and has written to all whose details were involved. It said the officer responsible for the notebook had been given ‘management advice’.
Mr Jaddoo claimed that recent shootings in the area were linked to the loss of the book and people who were wrongly associated with gangs in the intelligence report feared being targeted.
In a letter to chief constable Dave Thompson, Mr Jaddoo said that since the notebook was lost on May 29, he had been ‘monitoring the progression of the increase in drive-by shootings, shots fired, stabbings and violent attacks, particularly in the inner city areas and suburbs of Birmingham’.
He wrote: ‘Families have advised me that they are living in fear, individuals have been contacted and to paraphrase ‘told to make funeral arrangements’.
‘There is a clear link between this incident and the increase in violence on our streets. People have been shot at.’
The community leader’s observations appear to be borne out by the latest crime statistics and information released by the force in response to Freedom of Information requests.
Community leader Desmond Jaddoo (centre) fears the loss of the confidential intelligence has led to a rise in gang crime. In a letter to West Midlands Police’s chief constable, Mr Jaddoo wrote: ‘There is a clear link between this incident and the increase in violence on our streets. People have been shot at’
A recent FoI response on knife crime shows that this offence jumped from 213 offences in the West Midlands in May, to 241 in June and 261 in July. The response’s data covered only the first two weeks of August, by which point the knife crime total had already reached 174.
For violent crime as a whole, the statistics follow a similar trend, with 8,818 offences recorded in May rising to 10, 155 the following month across the force area. In July the figure had grown again to 10,849 violent offences, before peaking at 11,000 last month – the highest figure of the year so far.
Mr Jaddoo told the Mail: ‘I am aware of drive-by shootings thought to be linked to the loss of this information.
‘People are very concerned about what might happen next.
‘There needs to be a transparent and independent investigation.’
Danny Long, the assistant chief constable, said the professional standards department has investigated and the force had referred itself to the Information Commissioner’s Office [ICO] and the Independent Office for Police Conduct. He admitted the force had no idea where the notebook was.
He said:’An investigation was immediately launched to determine any threat and risk posed to members of our community.
‘We are very sorry that this information found its way into the public domain. We will welcome the findings of the ICO report once completed and will take any recommendations on board.’