FOI Friday: Problem families, housing benefit cheats, kids in cells and unsolved crimes

1. How many ‘problem families’ have moved into your area?

It’s not often it’s worth flagging up an FOI request before a result has come back, but this is a little different. The Ledbury Reporter newspaper reports on how Ledbury Town Council is trying to find out how many ‘problem families’ have been allocated housing in the town from outside the area. According to the council, such allocations take place under an arrangement called the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements.

2. Youth clubs which close too early

A little different, but fascinating all the same. Are councils doing enough to keep young people out of trouble in the evening? I suppose it depends on your view as to whether it is a council’s job to keep young people out of trouble. The Evening Standard clearly thought so, asking all councils for the opening and closing times of youth clubs. Most close before 7pm – just before the time of day when young people are, according to the paper, most likely to commit crime.

3. Things seized at court

Ok, so we’ve seen this FOI before, but if ever there was proof that just because it’s been done somewhere else shouldn’t mean you don’t do it as well, it’s this. The Birmingham Mail asked the question of the number of weapons seized at courts. The answer was 40,000. Really.

4. Cost of housing benefits cheats revealed

Housing benefit fraudsters are costing Barrow Council £1,500 a week, according to the North West Evening Mail. That means that since 2005, almost half a million pounds has been paid out to people who, it was later discovered, should not have received it.

5. The number of children kept in police cells overnight

The Sheffield Star reports on a Sheffield University study, carried out using FOI as one research tool, which revealed that more than 11,000 under-14s were held in police cells overnight last year. A breakdown of areas isn’t provided – one which could run and run?

6. Domestic violence and rate of prosecutions

The Halifax Courier, like many newspapers, has regularly run stories promoting domestic violence campaigns run by the local police force. It adds a new dimension to the issue by asking the police for details of how many reports of domestic violence lead to a prosecution. The answer? 40%. Less than half.

7. Winding up businesses

An interesting way of looking at the recession, and the government’s reaction to it. The Belfast Telegraph reports on research by a tax firm which revealed that the number of winding up orders issued by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs had gone up sharply. One to break down into different circulation areas?

8. Unsolved crimes

We’ve seen the figures for unsolved crimes many times before through FOI, but the Blackpool Gazette put real context to that figure by getting a breakdown of what the unsolved crimes were. The list included 63 rapes, 77 robberies, 72 cases of arson and more than 1,800 burglaries from homes and businesses. Out of 19,688 reported crimes in Lancashire Police’s Western Division – between November 1, 2010 and October 31, this year – 13,141 remained undetected at the start of November.

9. Unusual new thefts

Interesting stuff from the Wolverhampton Express and Star, which reveals the latest trend for metal thieves … catalytic converters. Really.

10. Biscuits stolen from a police station

And the award for the best use of a picture of a chocolate digestive goes to … The Sunday Mercury, which asked, as others have done, for a list of things stolen from police stations. The list is long. And includes biscuits

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FOI Friday is compiled using Google News and links sent to me on Twitter @davidhiggerson

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