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Switched Onto Safety
United Kingdom

Keywords: Crime Prevention
Women & Gender equality

Background

A procedural strategy which involves the community in crime prevention and improvement of general security.


Narrative

Established March 1993, Strategy adopted by the Council on 27 September 1994. Implementation ongoing through Service delivery process.
'Switched onto Safety' is a process by which safety in communities is established as a key policy goal of the Council and delivered as a matter of course through the service planning system of services.
Being a key policy goal places ownership with services and legitimises activity and budgets.
It is not a finite project aimed at a particular community or problem. It is an holistic, corporate strategy flowing through the bloodstream of the organisation, allowing services through community consultation, to develop solutions and partnerships on their own right.
It is a direction not a destination.
 

    IMPACT ASSESSMENT

The strategy does not stand alone and forms part of a corporate approach to delivering Council services. It can be described as a process, an interface linking community consultation, policy making and how services are delivered in communities. It overlaps other corporate strategies, such as the Environmental Charter, Social Strategy, Economic Development, All Change (transportation) and so on, to form a fundamental shift in the thinking of those responsible for delivering services in communities.

In that way, local managers from a variety of services will get together with local people to address a particular problem. That activity, involving partnership working and consultation along with attendant budgetary implications are legitimised by the policy commitment of the authority. Partnership working becomes the norm and professional barriers become less of a feature. Projects incorporating their own objectives and evaluation criteria emerge at local level, supported and sustained, not only at a local level but by the genuine commitment of the centre.

Service commitment to safety in communities is reflected in the annual Community Safety Action Plan, that flows from each service plan, containing objectives, tasks, resource implications, time scales and the person responsible for each task contained within the action plan.

This approach to Community Safety and real partnership working has achieved a lot in a short time. Some examples being:

- a switching of resources to street lighting schemes so that women and elderly people in particular feel safer when out at night;

- in the field of women's safety, a Zero Tolerance campaign involving Forth Valley Health Board, the Police, all four local authorities and women's groups as well as training for trainers 'self defense' project;

- improved facilities for young people, including alcohol free pubs, drop in centres, a young people's radio project designed to attract all ranges of young people, including those not normally attached to club activities and the unemployed. All to become involved in scripting, producing and broadcasting their own radio shows on Central FM, the local radio station;

- the extension of the Mobile Emergency Care Service to women victims of domestic violence. This was the first time in the UK that a "community alarm" scheme aimed at the elderly was adapted to provide police protection for women who had left violent partners. The idea was provided by a 19 year old student nurse at Forth Valley Nursing College, the project was established by the Community Safety Unit and the resources were provided by Central Regional council's Social Work Service, Central Scotland Police and the 3 local Women's Aid Groups;

- an intergenerational mediation scheme, known as Crosstalk was an idea generated in response to complaints about young people "causing nuisance" in the community. It was established by Falkirk District Community Safety Panel and resourced by Central Scotland Police and Central Region;

- a persistent Offenders project with œ1 million funding from the Scottish Office was devised, following a report by Central Scotland Police that 2% of persistent offenders were responsible for 20% of detected juvenile crime. Project partners included Central Regional Council's Social Work Service and Barnardo's who manage the project;

- a Youth Support Project funded via the Urban programme aimed at preventing young people from establishing criminal behaviour patterns. It involves CRC's Education, Social Work and Psychological Services and is run by Community Service Volunteers using adult befrienders drawn from the local community;

Because of this corporate, cross service commitment, with services carrying out a complex variety of tasks leading to safer communities, evaluation is not straightforward. however, the following are early indicators of progress:

- a reduction in crime rates over the last four years, with a 20% drop over the last two years, a faster rate than in any other area, coupled with a higher than average crime detection rate at more than 50%. All indications of the close co operation and work between services, the police and communities;

- increased local authority expenditure aimed at achieving safety in communities from less than œ1 million at the start of this partnership approach to over œ6 million identifiable budgets last financial year;

- some of the lowest injury accident rates since records began in 1926. Indeed, the years 1992 to 1994 produced (sequentially) the first, third and fifth lowest figures ever recorded;

- reduction in vehicle crime rates and serious assaults as well as a reduction in peoples fear to go about their business in areas covered by CCTV systems;

- a recent independent survey of a town centre CCTV system concluded that among the many benefits it created was that people felt safer particularly when out at weekends and at night and that retail staff who had to work late or respond to incidents in the early hours felt far safer and as a consequence has improved the environment of the town centre;

- a consultation process involving over 1000 local people;

- the formation of 5 locally based area committees, involving service managers and members of the community;

- the formation of 8 locally based Community Safety Groups consisting of Councilors, members of the public, neighbourhood watch, police and other professionals aimed at addressing local crime and safety issues;
 

    CHANGES IN POLICY/PRACTICE

The single most important change in the approach of Central Scotland Police and Central Regional Council was the recognition that for crime and the creation of safer communities to be tackled effectively, it required a corporate approach, a partnership of services working closely with communities. A recognition that sustainable safety in communities is the responsibility of each and everyone of us.

In that knowledge and against a backdrop of increasing service demand and rising crime through the 80's and the turn of the decade, Central Scotland Police critically examined their role in the prevention of crime, partnership working, the creation of safer communities and their effectiveness in these areas. Part of that process was to examine their record of 'one off' initiatives. They quickly realised that, despite the hard work and ingenuity of those involved, such initiatives tended to be 'bolt on' projects, external to main stream service delivery, with little support infrastructure and as a consequence difficult to sustain.

They concluded that for the root causes of crime and the creation of safer communities to be tackled effectively, they, the principal service with a statutory obligation to prevent crime and paradoxically, the service with least influence over many of the underlying causes, would have to become meaningfully involved with communities and with services and organisations who had influence.

By coincidence and about the same time as the police were going through change, Central Regional Council were also experiencing a metamorphosis. Prior to May 1990, Central Regional Council was not a policy driven authority. However, in the run up to that year's election, substantial debate took place about the effectiveness of the organisational and policy making process of the Council. It was quickly realised that the Council's priorities did not coincide with political priorities and that their decision making structures were inadequate.

Member officer groups were established to examine important areas such as economic development, pre fives, transportation, social strategy and Europe. These priorities were also a driving force behind the setting up of a corporate initiatives budget with resources being deliberately targeted, despite severe financial difficulties facing the Council, at key priority areas. One of the key areas being safety in communities.

In March 1993, therefore, a police officer was seconded to work with a Council officer in the newly formed Community Safety Unit. Their remit to produce a community safety strategy for Central Regional Council.
 

    NARRATIVE SUMMARY

The Community Safety Strategy was produced following a consultation exercise that involved 1000 local residents. They identified the problems faced by people living in the 92 communities across Central Region and more importantly, put forward suggestions and ideas for action by the Services of the Council. This ensured that the community safety strategy was firmly rooted in reality.

The Community Safety Survey identified common concerns that all communities shared:

People wanted to see policing at a neighbourhood level.

Parents wanted more drugs and alcohol education and prevention programmes.

Local people wanted to see action taken to reduce the speed of traffic on residential areas.

There was widespread support for neighbourhood Watch Schemes with all communities recognising that the fight against crime is everybody's battle and not just the sole province of the police.

Mothers wanted safe play areas to be created for their children.

Parents and young people alike asked for more leisure and recreation facilities to be provided for young people at an affordable price within their own locality, coupled with employment opportunities.

Environment concerns ranged from the problems created by dog fouling to rubbish dumping and the need to improve maintenance and design of back courts and common areas.

A corporate Community Safety Steering Group was established involving senior managers across the services of the Regional Council and Central Scotland Police. It was chaired by the Chief Constable. The people on it had access to budgets and resources. Bringing them together to develop the community safety strategy ensured that the ideas emanating from the community safety survey were picked up by the services. In year one of the project, expenditure on community safety issues rose from œ0.67 million to œ3.2 million in year two this increased to œ7 million.
 

    CONCLUSION

This ideology is underpinned by the notion of local action and empowerment. Where local people are encouraged to enter dialogue with local service providers through their aim that everyone acts jointly for the benefit of the community. While this can be succinctly called, "Local Solutions to Local Problems", it should not be dismissed as an unattainable panacea. It is contended that without the co operation of local people and other agencies, no initiative can be sustained, they will have been constructed on sand. An effective strategy to reduce crime and create safer communities requires more than financial resources and publicity to succeed. It requires the correct local infrastructure and support to be in place. That can enable all the players to take ownership of the problem and bring about a solution. It has to be an attitude of mind integral to the process of delivering services. A corporate approach to safety in communities.


Impact

  • 20% drop in crime over last 2 years.
  • Above average 50% crime detection rate.
  • Safety expenditure has risen from œ1m at start of partnership to œ6m.
  • Recent years have seen lowest injury accident rates on record.
  • Reduction in vehicle crime.
  • Reduction in serious assaults.
  • Formation of 5 locally based committees and 8 Community Safety Groups.

Sustainability

A key to the success of the community safety strategy has been its integration into the core work of council services, thereby ensuring its sustainability.

A series of training sessions involving employees across services at all levels within the Council was organised. partly to "sell" the community safety message but mainly to ensure that the views of front line workers and managers of key services were incorporated into the strategy. This is no small measure ensured that employees of the Council were "Switched onto Safety" and that key players across the services were well briefed on the outcomes of the community safety strategy and could therefore take on board the suggestions made by local people when formulating service delivery plans.

Each service produced its own community safety action plan and a corporate community safety action plan was produced for the council.


Contact

    Switched onto Safety
    Central Regional Council, Old Viewforth
    Stirling
    United Kingdom
    FK8 2ET

Sponsor

    Central Regional Council, Scotland
    Viewforth
    Stirling
    Scotland
    United Kingdom
    FK8 2ET
    01786 442000

Partners

    Central Regional Council
    McChord, Cormick (Cllr)
    Central Regional Council, Old Viewforth
    Stirling
    United Kingdom
    FK8 2ET

    Central Scotland Police
    McNeish, Ian: Community Safety Officer
    Chief Executive's Services, Central Regional Council
    Stirling
    United Kingdom
    FK8 2ET

    Wilson, William QPM: Chief Constable
    Central Scotland Police: Police HQ
    Randolphfield, Stirling
    United Kingdom
    FK8 2HD


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