Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 16/9/22 – #FOIFriday

Freedom of Information requests can be a useful way of getting detailed (and quick(er)) information about events – in this case the impact of the July heatwave.

Crime at hospitals

Arson, criminal damage and theft are among the other crimes reported to have taken place at Furness General Hospital in the last six years. Other crimes included burglary,  drug offences and possession of weapons.

The data was revealed following a freedom of information request by the Westmoreland Gazette.

Some 440 reports of violence and sexual offences were reported since 2016. Last year was the worst year for these offences, when 91 were recorded.

Car crime

Catalytic converter thieves targeting thousands of cars across the West Midlands are getting away with it almost every time, an investigation by Birmingham Live has found. Out of 3,401 reported thefts since 2019 – only FIVE people have been charged.

Catalytic converter thefts, which sees crooks hack away at the underneath of vehicles to get to the valuable metal, have exploded over recent years, increasing by more than five times between 2019 and 2021.

Dog crime hotspots

FOI requests have the potential to narrow down crime reports to smaller areas than published crime figures (whether small numbers highlight hotspots is harder to tell).

Under the powers of the Freedom of Information Act, North Wales Live asked North Wales Police which streets or residential areas had the highest number of dog-related incidents over the past year. High Street in Rhyl saw the highest number, with four reports in the past 12 months.

The data includes reports of dog attacks, reports of dangerous dogs/mishandling by owners, and reports of injuries caused by a dog. North Wales Police’s figures cover the period of 12 months, ending in August 2022. There were 64 reports of dog attacks across the top 29 addresses during this time.

Heatwave costs

A response to a Freedom of Information request put to the council by the Yorkshire Evening Post shows Leeds City Council only lost £5,220 in projected revenue from ticket sales to attractions which had to close. During the mid-July heatwave, Tropical World in Roundhay – home to meerkats, butterflies, monkeys and snakes – closed for several days over concern for the safety of its animals.

In addition to this, around £11,600 was spent on additional road repairs and gritting needed due to the heat, with an extra £11,870 in other lost revenues.

Missing people

Thousands of children under 16 and almost 200 adults over the age of 60 went missing in the West Midlands over the last five years, a Freedom of Information request by Birmingham World has revealed.

Between 14 September 2017 to 14 September 2022, 28,655 children under the age of 16 years were reported missing. During the same time period, 28,280 children under the age of 16 were found as well. Only 1.3% of reports were unsolved during this period, although the not all the children found may be the same ones that went missing in those five years.

Dog poo

Dog poo complaints is a perennial local newspaper story, as residents get annoyed by an issue they encounter regularly that never seems to get fixed (see also litter and potholes (unless the King is coming for a visit)).

According to the Echo, frustrated residents are demanding council bosses get tough on dog fouling after new figures showed only 17 fines have been dished out for the offence in the last three years. The data, which came via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted to Basildon Council, has revealed only one fixed penalty notice has been issued so far this year.

Angry residents insist the small number of fines doesn’t reflect the scale of the issue, with some saying they regularly see dog mess on walks around the borough.

Home zoo

If you want to run a doggy day care, set yourself up as a breeder, or run a small travelling petting zoo, you’ll need a licence from the council. If you’re planning to keep something a bit more exotic than a gerbil, you may need to apply for a different licence under the Dangerous Animals Act.

The Slough and South Bucks Observer submitted a Freedom of Information request to the council to find out the types of animals people are allowed to keep and exhibit under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulation 2018.

One resident is keeping a Royal Python whilst others are holding Mexican Rosy Boa and a Corn Snake. A Fat Tailed Gecko, two Leopard Geckos, and a Bearded Dragon are also being kept somewhere within the borough. If you’re an arachnophobe, you might want to check with your neighbour if they are holding tarantulas as two licenses were granted this year.

If cold-blooded creatures or spiders aren’t your thing and want something much larger, then some households are keeping three Shetland ponies and donkeys as well as one alpaca, six equines, which is a type of horse, and 12 goats. The council also licensed eight sheep to be kept.

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