News from UK

Home Office Agenda, 2005

Reference: 075/2005 – Date: 17 May 2005 11:57
Improving community safety and protecting national security are at the core of the Home Office’s agenda in the next Parliamentary session, the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, said today.

New laws to tackle violent crime, terrorism, immigration abuse and identity fraud form the central planks of the Home Secretary’s legislative programme, as set out in the Queen’s Speech. 

The Home Office will be bringing forward the following:

•        Violent Crime Reduction Bill
•        Immigrationand Asylum Bill
•        A Bill to outlaw incitement to religious hatred
•        Corporate Manslaughter Bill
•        Charities Bill
•        ID Cards Bill
•        Draft Counter Terrorism Bill
•        Management of Offenders and Sentencing Bill

Mr Clarke said: “Continuing our work to create a safe, secure and flourishing Britainis the Government’s main priority. We have already achieved a considerable amount – crime is down, we have record police numbers, we have significantly cut asylum applications, strengthened the laws on drugs and anti-social behaviour.

“But we must build on this success. Too many communities live in fear of violent crime – of city centre binge drinking, yobs with imitation and air guns, and young people carrying knives. The British Crime Survey shows violent crime is down, but if people are to feel safer we must do even more.

“Some minority communities are particularly vulnerable, and we intend to outlaw incitement to religious hatred to ensure that all groups in our society enjoy the same protection under the law.

“We’ve made significant progress in transforming our immigration system, and intend to do even more through our five year plan to make sure that immigration works for Britain – that we have strong borders but allow migrants to come here when that benefits our economy.

“ID cards will help tackle illegal immigration as well as support the work of the law enforcement agencies in tackling the ever-present threat of terrorism. As I indicated during the passage of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, we will also be looking at how we can further strengthen our counter-terrorism legislation.
“The Management of Offenders and Sentencing Bill will support the Government’s aim of protecting the public, reducing re-offending and increasing confidence in the Criminal Justice System. The Bill will underpin the creation of the National Offender Management Service and re-balance sentencing by reinforcing rigorous and effective community punishments.

“Taken together, the package of Home Office proposals announced today underlines our commitment to the communities and individuals across the country – that we will do everything in our power to ensure they can live safe, secure and prosperous lives.”

Home Office Announces GPS tracking, 2004
What do you think? Can GPS tracking help to reduce crime?

The British Home secretary, David Blunkett, announced, the 2nd of september, the launching of a new crime reduction strategy : The most dangerous criminals, when out of prison, will now be always localisable thanks to the GPS (global positionning system) technology. For example, it will be possible to detect when a former  paedophile  gets to close from a school, and this 24/24. This innovative looking program, has, in fact, already been experimented in Florida since 1998.

This satellite tracking program could concern about 5.000 criminals after a year of experimentation now going on with 120 people in three aeas (Greater Manchester, Hampshire and West Midlands).

The reaction are of all kinds : While the Director General of the probation services-Steve Murphy-wishes the community safety will be improved trough this mean, others voices demand a reinforcement of the traditional tools to prevent the repetition of offences ( access to work, housing, financial aids, etc.).

Blair’s war on Yobs

A letter from England, Nigel Whiskin, August 6th, 2004

Armed with a hefty financial settlement from the Chancellor’s Public Expenditure Review, Prime Minister Blair and Home Secretary Blunkett have come up with a Five Year Plan intended to:

– Reduce Anti-social Behaviour
– Cut crime by a further 15%
– Put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system
– Stimulate community engagement in tackling neighbourhood crime problems
To achieve these results, Blair and Blunkett propose to recruit an additional 20,000 Police Community Support Officers and Neighbourhood Wardens over the next five years. They want to encourage communities to insist on greater use being made of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, electronic tracking of the 5,000 most prolific offenders and introduce a range of community sentences that not only contain a restorative element – offenders paying back to the victims and communities that they have harmed – but also enforced with much greater vigour.  The police are tasked to set-up dedicated neighbourhood teams and to work with local people to deal with those whose behaviour causes serious offence.

No plans to expand the capacity of prisons beyond the present commitment to provide 80,000 places. No plans to increase police officers beyond the present numbers that have increased by almost a third since Labour came to power.  No plans to increase investment in crime reduction or community safety.

In brief, it is a five year war on yobs. It is a call to the electorate to support the Government’s tough line on crime; it marks the end of the ‘liberal’ consensus that somehow crime was caused by unemployment and social deprivation; it is a call to the police and civic agencies to use the powers and the resources that they have to deal robustly with community crime problems; it is a call to communities to engage with the problems that they face in their everyday lives and, above all, not to tolerate unacceptable behaviour.

‘Decent law abiding people should not have to put up with abusive and criminal behaviour,’ is the essence of Blair and Blunkett’s message as we in the UK edge towards the next General Election.

Of course it is only too easy to be cynical about Blair and Blunkett’s plans and dismiss them as no more than a mega blast of sound bites for electors, a message that some say panders to middle England’s desire for clean and safe neighbourhoods where nothing is out of place, where no voices are raised and where everyone goes quietly about their daily lives; where wrong doing is punished and where there is above all respect.

Of course, it is too easy to be critical about the Five Year Plan from a criminology perspective.  Anti-Social Behaviour Orders have already since their introduction had the perverse consequence of pushing up the numbers of young people receiving custodial sentences. The naming and shaming of offenders works best with those who have something to lose and does not work at all with those who have nothing to lose.  More police and their community support officers may offer reassurance to those who are worried about the safety and security of the streets and public transport that they use but will it tackle the problems that trigger fear and unease?  Will more law and enforcement tackle the problem of what Prime Minister Blair described as ‘feral’ children causing havoc?
What is quite remarkable so far, a day or do after the debate has started, is that the five year battle plans for the War on Yobs have left the critics struggling to find the contra arguments.  Rather it is a case of people being wary of the political spin, the sound bites and eye-catching numbers.  There is a certain sense of deja vue about the battle plans but it has to be said that they have struck a certain chord with most people, they resonate with the sentiment of the day!

If Blair and Blunkett’s Plans are aimed at those neighbourhoods where there are very real problems, nasty problems of persistent nuisance, harassment, racism, personalised victimisation and intimidation; incidents that sicken all decent people; where ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ is intolerable and unacceptable, then they deserve whole hearted support. 
In a civilised society we all have the right to go about our daily lives without being abused, without being fearful of our property or anxious about our personal safety. And it is all our responsibility to make that happen.

The Mixed Economy Approach to policing

“A Letter from England” Nigel Whiskin, July 1st 2004

The good news from England is that the crime rates are now at their lowest since 1981 and, with a few exceptions, continue to fall.  Given the scepticism about numbers – statistics, statistics and damn lies – the British Crime Survey confirms that that your chances of becoming a crime victim are also at their lowest for a quarter of a century.  Domestic burglary and car crime have been slashed by nearly a third over the last decade.

Police and crime prevention practitioners might expect some applause for what is in theory a significant success story and Government recognition for its ‘tough on crime’ strategy.

But the bad news is that the public just do not recognise the improvements.  Far from it, only one in ten people believe the crime situation has improved and some sixty percent think it is getting worse, a significant number say that it is getting much worse.

 Why should this be?  We have:

•        More police officers than ever before
•        Supported by 5000 Community Support Officers
•        8000 or so Neighbourhood Wardens
•        The highest prison population in Europe at 75,000
•        A private security industry that employs some 400,000 staff and which is about to be regulated

 The investment in driving down the crime numbers and making our streets and neighbourhoods safe and secure is massive.  We are spending more on law and order than we are on the armed forces – we have more police officers than soldiers!

Of course public scepticism about crime is fuelled by the manner in which the media report crime.  The crime numbers have gone down significantly but the amount of coverage given to crime has stayed the same.  And just as our expectations about our standard of living have risen over the last twenty years, so have our expectations about ‘liveability’, quality of life issues of which feeling safe is high on peoples agenda. As the population ages it is not unreasonable to assert that there is a certain hardening of attitudes towards behaviour as the grey beards and blue rinses look back to their golden years and recall a calmer, more peaceful society – whether it actually was so is another matter.
On a Tuesday last September, the Government took a snapshot of reports of anti-social behaviour – street drunkenness, abandoned cars, vandalism, graffiti, litter, fly tipping, youth nuisance, noisy neighbours, stray dogs and all that contributes to urban – and rural – squalor and that triggers a sense of insecurity, a sense that our streets are unsafe and our communities are out of control. This was not a scientific exercise but rather a snapshot of what is going on in our towns and neighbourhoods across the country.

Over those 24 hours on a weekday last September, there were some 66,000 reports of anti-social behaviour, behaviours that cost local authorities over £3 billion a year to put right and that cause so much distress to ordinary people going about their daily lives. And if, again very unscientifically, one extrapolates the figures and checks with recent British Crime Survey results, it looks as if that whilst crime has gone down, anti-social behaviour has gone up by roughly a corresponding amount.  And since by its nature most anti-social behaviour is very public and witnessed by many people, it explains why most people think that the crime problem is getting worse.

Government has reacted to all this by introducing Anti-Social Behaviour legislation that gives police and local authorities a range of new powers and sanctions to crack down on those whose uncivil behaviour cause offence to the majority.  It is a kind of ‘zero tolerance’ approach. What the public want is more visible policing, more police on the pavements, to reassure and protect, and to deal with offensive behaviour.

So the challenge for police chiefs is about how to find more trained uniformed officers to work the streets in our town centres and in our neighbourhoods, how to establish dedicated neighbourhood police teams that don’t get called away when ever there are major incidents or serious criminal investigations or national events like visiting Heads of State.  At the same time in the UK the police have the unenviable task of trying to protect the public from terrorist attacks, the threat of which is said to be more menacing than ever before in recent history.

The introduction of 5,000 Police Community Support Officers – modelled roughly on the lines of the Netherlands City Guards and resisted for many years by British Police Chiefs on the grounds of ‘third class’ policing and weakening the ‘thin blue line’ – are part of the effort to increase police visibility.
But there are other innovations that are freeing trained police officers for front line duties. For example:

One police area has contracted with a security company to build five new custody suites.  Working to the police, the company also:

•        Manages and maintains the custody suites
•        Feeds prisoners
•        Provides forensic medical services
•        Provides interpreters
•        Takes fingerprints and DNA samples
•        Manages Identity parades – not the traditional line up but with photographs on lap top computers
The introduction of new technology and business processes has reduced the time it takes to book prisoners into the custody suites by a third to nine minutes.  This may not sound much but multiplied by 45,000 it adds up to five police officers a year!

All in all about 155 police officers have been freed up for front line work, contributing to a 30% increase in arrests over the previous year at a time when crime levels are falling.

Other Police Chiefs are looking very hard at what back room and near to core services can be outsourced to the business sector.  A recent consultation exercise with one police service exposed a number of opportunities for releasing police officers and saving money.  The areas of work that were considered suitable for outsourcing included:

•        Managing crime scenes
•        Carrying out door to door enquires
•        Managing lost, stolen and seized property
•        Reviewing cctv footage and so on
The anticipated savings were estimated as being in the order of £4 million a year!

Of course not everyone believes in the privatisation of public services and for some the privatisation of the police of all public services goes against their principles about the very nature of civil society and the responsibilities of Government to provide a safe society for all its members.  However many would argue that outsourcing is not privatisation – it is doing what businesses have done for years in buying in services or products from specialist suppliers in order to reduce costs, add value and constantly up grade the quality of service or product.

What we are looking at is in fact a ‘mixed economy’ approach to delivering a modern police service.  The police retain operational control and most of the interface with the public.  The mixed economy approach means bringing the best of the public and business sectors together to work in partnership to release trained officers to frontline duties, relieve the police from the burden of backroom services and, where appropriate, bring new technology and business processes to the task of reducing crime, reassuring the public and protecting us from the threat of terrorism.

It is a bold step.  It doesn’t mean the end of the British Bobby but it does mean that police managers will become co-ordinators of the services that are needed to create safe and clean environments, not just the sole providers.

Evaluation of  CCTV

One important step in the process of the evaluation of a tool in the country that has installed the most cameras in Europe.

Click here to find the effective practice guide on National evaluation of CCTV: early findings on scheme implementation published by Home Office in 2003.

New programs? New methodology? UK on spot

This note is delivering by Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in England & Wales. “Existing Scenario: Crime and fear of crime continue to be one of the key concerns of the population. A significant change over the last 20 to 30 years has been the increasing impact that drugs has on crime. The level of involvement of young people involved in crime is still too high. But the majority of the young people do not commit crime and are more likely to be victims than perpetrators. Tackling crime and the fear of crime involves a wide range of partners. But there is still too much bureaucracy that gets in the way of Crime and Disorder Partnerships, Drug Action partnerships and Youth Offending Teams working effectively. Information sharing and data exchange about community safety issues between partners is often poor largely because of anxiety about data protection issues. There is little financial incentive for local authorities to invest in preventative services Some policing functions may be more cost effective if they were carried out by local government (and vice-versa) Proposal: Planning requirements to be streamlined, funding streams to be pooled and monitoring requirements to be proportionate to need. A single pot for community safety with allocations set over a three year period. Requirements for capital and revenue split should be removed. Ability to roll forward between years should be allowed. Freedoms and Flexibilities should be applicable to all agencies represented on the Crime and Disorder Partnership involving an Excellent authority Joint work to develop a protocol framework which meets the information needs of Crime and Disorder Partnerships, YOT’s and DAT’s. Creation of Invest to Prevent budget for use by Excellent Authorities Organisations represented on Crime and Disorder Partnerships to be able to agree locally responsibility for functions. Further scoping work to be undertaken jointly to identify initiatives which could have a more significant impact on a wide range of problems.

These proposals will:

Free up Crime and Disorder Partnerships, DAT’s and YOT’s to focus on achieving reduction in crime and fear of crime rather than dealing with red tape. Provide a means of achieving a greater impact on the levels of crime and fear of crime Over the long term provide savings in the total cost to the public purse Issue to be addressed.

Tackling crime is a national and local priority but:

Crime and Disorder Partnerships need to be given more freedom from government to tackle local issues There is insufficient investment in longer term preventative services Some “community safety” functions may be more cost-effective if they were carried out by a different agency than is the case at the moment. Lack of power to require greater responsibility to be taken by the private sector to address community safety concerns. What needs to change?
The relationship between central government and Crime and Disorder Partnerships, including the balance between national and local targets and priorities; changes to funding streams, planning and monitoring requirements.
Need for flexibility in how any changes impact differently on 2-tier authorities as against unitary authorities Removal of any barriers which prevent local government to take on certain traditional policing functions and vice versa, where this is agreed locally. Insufficient powers to require the private sector to take a greater responsibility of the community safety agenda. Changes to funding mechanisms would be required in order to incentivise investment in preventative services. 1. Benefits to citizens Greater reduction in levels of crime and fear of crime. Greater emphasis on crime issues that are a priority for residents locally. A significant improvement in the quality of life of people who live, work and visit the area Will provide opportunities to create, build and empower local communities to tackle crime particularly through a greater emphasis on long-term preventative work with young people and with our communities in their neighbourhoods. Greater opportunities to tackle the problems of anti-social behaviour. 2. Benefits to local government and other local bodies Frees up resources to concentrate on achieving outcome of reducing crime and fear of crime Could provide opportunity to release greater capacity for police to deal with key community safety concerns Provides all agencies with clarity about data sharing and information exchange thereby improving decision making and resource allocation Provides opportunity for longer term resource planning Provides opportunity for freedoms and flexibilities to be made available to a wider range of organisations. Will strengthen the role of Crime and Disorder Partnerships and help to engage those agencies which are not as engaged as they need to be currently. 3. Benefits to central government Streamline various funding streams Provides opportunity for government to pilot freedoms and flexibilities with organisations other than local government. Provides an opportunity to act as a test bed for the transfer of functions to the most appropriate agency. Provides an opportunity to pilot initiatives in some or all of the excellent Local authorities designed to test the impact of longer-term preventative community safety initiatives on crime levels and resources. Should improve government resource allocation Will help to make government targets more meaningful and therefore more achievable. Links to Shared Priorities .

This is an existing shared priority and has strong linkages to other shared priorities. For example, more effective traffic enforcement could reduce the number of people injured through traffic accidents. Also strong links between the crime agenda and the street scene and liveability agenda. Finally, to tackle crime effectively requires further progress being made on other shared priorities, particularly education.

Background Information :

Audit Commission report “Misspent Youth” 1998 made clear the need for greater investment in preventative services.

Further action required to scope proposal

Working group(s) would be needed with Home Office and other government departments take forward and scope some of these ideas further.

Government contact(s) Home Office: – Tyson Hepple ODPM, DCMS DFES, DOT, DoH Other contacts Dennis Skinner – Assistant Chief Executive Tony Brooks – Borough Commander, Camden Police, MPS Lead Council; Supporting Council(s) LB Camden – Lead All Excellent Councils