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The pub: Fingerprint first, then your beer

I’ve seen CSI, can’t they just lift the prints from the glasses?

(picture from the Guardian)

This article from Friday’s Register, Beer Fingerprints to go UK-wide, tells us that South Somerset District Council‘s pilot scheme of fingerprinting patrons of local pubs seems to have led to a 48% drop in alcohol related crime between February and September 2006.From the article: ‘Offenders can be banned from one pub or all of them for a specified time – usually a period of months – by a committee of landlords and police called Pub Watch. Their offences are recorded against their names in the fingerprint system. Bradburn [principal licensing manager at South Somerset District Council] noted the system had a “psychological effect” on offenders.’

Apparently the Government is so impressed that they’re willing to fund the scheme for ‘councils that want to have their pubs keep a regional black list of known trouble makers’. The Home Office have agreed to fund similar systems in Coventry, Hull and Sheffield, while general funding for the rest of the local authorities is to come from the Department for Communities and Local Government‘s Safer, Stronger Communities budget. The article says that the DCLG is distributing the funds through local area agreements (description sites from the central government side and from local government).

This news article fills me with so many questions I’m not sure where to begin.

  • Why is no one else reporting on this activity?? I’ve had a look at South Somerset’s, the DCLG’s and the Home Office’s sites and wasn’t able to find any news on this scheme (though that may be the fault of the search technologies they’re each using. The results I didn’t get, in general, weren’t particularly relevant). I’ve also checked Google news — nothing their either.
  • Where is the fingerprint data going? What kinds of Data Protection Act considerations have been made? How easy will it be to find out that your no-good lazy husband was in fact having a pint when he said he’d be at work late? And what about that female fingerprint in the database just before or just after him?
  • The previous point of course brings up all kinds of data-sharing questions within the government too. As seen in the Climbié debacle, the Government isn’t fantastic at sharing information when it needs to. Does that help or hurt this scheme?
  • How much has business fallen for these pubs? Is all of South Somerset okay with this?

If anyone knows more about what’s going on here, I’d love to be caught up. How bizarre to find this story slid in under the radar.

DCLG logo Home Office logo Down it goes

3 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Jim Donohue #

    In todays day and age a ban should be a ban for at least life. Screw second or third chances. Skip the finger printing…take a picture post it at the bar and never serve him/her again. The pub chains can get fancy by taking a digital picture and sending it to all their pubs. But keep the goverments fingers off my beer. They already have grimed up my glass with their taxes.

  2. Matty G #

    I am of two minds on the subject. If I am not committing a crime, I have nohing to hide. I am not bothered by wiretapping or cameras in parking garages, so why should fignerprint checks at a bar (aka pub) bother me? On the other hand, the government is confiscatory in nature, and one small concession of privacy leads to greater and greater concessions. This is why you Brits are no longer are allowed handguns (yet crime is still high.) Of course the best solution to all of this nonsense would be to quit smashing pints over eachothers’ heads but that’s asking a bit too much of the modern man if you ask me.

    You could always introduce some handguns to the equation. I imagine hooligans are less likely to start trouble when they aren’t sure if their would be victim is packing heat.

  3. 3

    Point #1: The idea that extremely drunk hooligans would either stop to consider whether the object of their violence might be toting a concealed weapon or be deterred if such were thought to be the case is dubious at best. This does not seem to work in the US even among subcultures who frequently do carry firearms – the only difference here is that more drunken brawls end in serious injury or death.

    Point #2: Although crime in the UK is at disturbingly high levels, gun crime itself accounts for a tiny percentage of that total. Figures released by the Home Office in 2005 estimated that only 11,000 gun crimes occurred from 1/05 through 6/05 in the UK, and many of those involved replica guns or air guns. By comparison, the same report estimated that there were 318,000 violent crimes just from 4/05 to 6/05, half of that timeframe. Extrapolating from these numbers would put gun crimes at something like 2% of all violent crime in the UK.
    Your connection between the handgun ban and high crime levels contains an implicit assumption that the ban was designed to lower the number of crimes of all types. This is also dubious. It seems more likely that the ban was designed to reduce the number of injuries/deaths by firearm.

    Point #3: It’s plausible that the handgun ban is partly responsible for the increase in general crime levels (when guns are outlawed, etc.); this may be the point you intended to make. However, since the UK is already suffering from so many related problems that also increase general crime levels, such as cycles of poverty in immigrant populations and light enforcement of criminal penalties by police, one would have a very difficult time determining how much any one of these factors has affected the situation.

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