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Police failures blamed on computer systems.

WEST Midlands Police have been failing to properly record and pass on details of all runaways because of computer data linking problems - and may have been wrongly classing runaways as 'absent' rather than 'missing.'.

Caption | ' All crime calls are initially recorded on the main force computer system, called Command and Control. If a child is deemed 'missin',' the incident and their details are recorded on a second police system, called Compact, which automatically alerts social services. But thousands of youngsters who go missing are being recorded as 'absent' on Command and Control - and social services are not automatically alerted.

'Sources claim one runaway marked as 'absent' vanished for five days, although police say the average time period is 1.7 days.

The 'absent' category was created in 2013 to free up police resources from looking for children who frequently abscond for hours - and sometimes days - at a time but who were not thought to be coming to harm.

But if the youngster is recorded as 'absent' on Command and Control and later turns up, a record of their absence is not created on the Compact system, meaning social workers have not been automatically alerted.

Police should have been alerting councils to all absence records since 2013, but the Birmingham Mail understands the West Midlands force has only been doing that since towards the end of last year.

We have also discovered how 'missing' cases recorded by the force dropped at one point in 2013 to below half of the figures from 2010 - while 'absence' cases doubled at one point in 2013.

The force says it has, in recent months, been manually trawling through Command and Control records and alerting councils to absent cases. Chief Inspector Sean Phillips, force lead for missing people, told the Mail: "Every missing child will have been shared with the local authority."

But he admitted: "There is no doubt our preference would be to record all of these absent children on to a Compact system that would allow us to automatically refer absent cases in the same vein as we do missing children.

"We don't have that facility with the Compact version we have. We are looking to upgrade to allow us to do that.

"So what we do in the interim is, we have a number of officers who will review the Command and Control log on a daily basis. They will look at any of those children or adults who are deemed absent. And they will review and risk assess, and refer to the local authority, as and when they need to.

"Because we don't record absent data on Compact, because we record on a very manual-based system that requires every log reviewed manually, we aren't able to collate all of that information at the moment into one place."

When asked if all absent cases have been passed on to councils, Chief Insp Phillips said: "I can't tell you how many absent cases have been referred to the local authority because we are not collating that data in its totality."

But he insisted: "We are referring absent children to the local authority. We are doing it on a daily basis by ten different policing units to seven different local authorities."

Chief Insp Phillips also admitted: "There are small amounts (on Command and Control) that we've identified that were mistakenly closed. We've re-opened them so that they can be put on Compact so that a notification can be sent."
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:May 4, 2015
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