A charity which tackles crime and anti-social behaviour in Dover, Deal and Sandwich has been given an award for an initiative which speeds up communications between its members.
Karen Griffiths, co-ordinator of the Dover Partnership Against Crime (DPAC), was presented with a commendation certificate and a prize of £100 at the conference of the National Association of Business Crime Partnerships (NABCP) in Northampton.
The award was for third place in the innovation category of the association's Partnership Excellence Awards and was for a new initiative involving Whatsapp, the mobile phone communication application.
In August 2015 DPAC relaunched Pubwatch and one of the first issues raised at a meeting of licensees was the nuisance caused by a small number of people.
"We excluded these people from our members' premises because of their behaviour, but, by their very nature, pubs are loud places and it soon became apparent that members were having difficulty alerting each other on the radio when those who had been excluded were out and about," said Mrs Griffiths.
"So we had to think of a way of alerting each other. To avoid mis-identification from a description, we thought sharing a photo of the person would be better and we decided to use Whatsapp to alert each other."
Mrs Griffiths sought help from Mike Schuck, from the NABCP, who liaised with the Information Commissioner's Office on her behalf, and after resolving a few queries, the use of Whatsapp was approved.
"The pubwatch Whatsapp group proved so successful it was decided to use it for the Shopwatch day-time economy too," said Mrs Griffiths.
Each DPAC member who signs up to the Whatsapp group must follow strict protocols and sign data-sharing agreements.
Photos and information of individuals are shared to prevent and deter crime. Photos are uploaded to DPAC's secure website on a daily basis and must be removed from users' phones each day. Once a week, members confirm that they have removed all photos from their phones.
Mrs Griffiths also took the idea to the Business Crime Reduction Partnership seminar at police headquarters and several other partnerships have now decided to use it.
"We are thrilled to have been recognised with this national award," said Mrs Griffiths. "The Information Commissioner was at the conference and this award cements the ratification of the use of Whatsapp within the Business Crime Partnerships community".