Expatica news

Door-to-door searches ‘violate privacy’

24 August 2005

BRUSSELS — The privacy commission has ruled that Antwerp’s door-to-door inspections in troublesome city districts are illegal.

The commission has advised the Antwerp City Council to thoroughly re-examine the project ‘X-Stra’, which is designed to cut crime and improve city living conditions.

In response, Public Safety Alderman Dirk Grootjans said he would study the commission’s advice, but warned the city would nevertheless start the door-to-door searches in September.

Grootjans had previously said the privacy commission had issued informal advice granting approval to the project — which is part of the ‘Safety City Plan’ — but the commission immediately denied the claim.

The commission decided in June to examine the project after a large number of complaints and questions about the scheme had been raised.

That study has now been completed and the privacy commission’s decision is clear: “X-Stra is not compatible in its present form with the privacy law”, newspaper ‘De Tijd’ reported on Wednesday.

In the first phase of the project, an ‘intervention team’ will visit every home in a selected street. In total, 10 hotspot city districts have been identified and five streets will be targeted also. 

The intervention team consists of officers from the Antwerp social security office OCMW, the council’s population register, housing department, the civilian neighbourhood watch unit and a council safety officer.

After gaining permission from residents, the team will inspect the house and investigate its residents to identify problems with living circumstances, employment, neighbourhood disturbances, residency status, etc.

All of the details gathered will be lodged in a new database and can be passed on to various government authorities, such as the OMCW or the immigration service.
The privacy commission has questioned the Antwerp Council which law will regulate the door-to-door searches. However, all of the laws the council has pointed to are inadequate.
“Services such as the OMCW and [immigration] reception centres each have a law that gives them inspection powers, but they must not conduct the inspections together in teams or bundle their data in one databank,” the commission said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news