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BEST PRACTICE - MAKING LIFE SAFER FOR ALL

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Joint-working is the key to tackling crime, says Adrian O'Dowd. Team up with the police, housing associations and o...
Joint-working is the key to tackling crime, says Adrian O'Dowd. Team up with the police, housing associations and other services and you will see the figures fall

Crime is a matter for everyone. The Crime & Disorder Act 1998 gave councils, the police, the fire brigade and the NHS shared responsibility for producing a strategy for reducing crime and disorder. A whole range of joint initiatives have been launched - but there is still a long way to go.

Overall crime is falling but violent crime is on the up. That is according to the most recent statistics from the police on recorded crime and the British Crime Survey, which asks adults their experience of crime including unreported incidents.

The survey's figures for England and Wales show overall crime fell 7% in 2003/04 and 2004-2005 while official recorded crimes by police dropped 6% in the same period. Recorded violent crime, however, rose by 7% to 1.18m incidents.

Here are some successful crime-fighting initiatives taking place across the UK:

1 Learn from your neighbours

A close network of contacts makes combating crime far easier - the secret is to learn from your neighbours.

The rural authorities of Stroud DC, Forest of Dean DC and Tewkesbury BC have been working together since 2001, sharing their ideas and piloting schemes in one area to see if they are successful enough to be extended to all three. They also work with the police and the fire service.

Winners of a Beacon award in 2002, the authorities have come up with a range of projects including:

>> Free cards with vital contact information to help identification in an emergency.

>> Mobile police stations known as 'Bobby buses'.

>> A bogus callers helpline, which people can call to check the ID of an unexpected caller.

Philip Sullivan, head of community safety at Stroud DC, says: 'Good contacts are essential. You are learning from other people's success without the cost and development. Our motto is 'plagiarism is a compliment'.

'It was an evolution. We were all doing things so we decided why not try this together? These are little projects that come together to make life better for people. They are all things around community safety and they make every-

one feel more secure.'

2 Work with pubs to fight alcohol-related crime

Weekend nights are a peak time for alcohol-fuelled crime - especially in town centres around pubs and clubs.

The Best Bar None scheme has been designed to solve the problem. Venues volunteer to sign up and have to implement policies that tackle security, drunkenness, drugs, theft, public safety, underage drinking, disorder and public nuisance.

If the venues pass inspections by trained staff and volunteers, they gain official accreditation and can win awards.

West Yorkshire Police launched the largest Best Bar None scheme last November by extending it across the county rather than simply focusing on one city. All of the county's five local authorities are now involved - Kirklees, Wakefield, Leeds, Calderdale and Bradford.

Simon Massey, safer communities manager for Kirklees Safer Communities Partnership, says: 'The scheme allows us to work with the licensees and pub owners themselves to encourage them to become part of a wider preventative approach.'

One of the voluntary inspectors is Tracy Prout, a taxation assistant for Wakefield MDC. She says: 'My son is just coming up to 18 and works in one of the bars in Wakefield.

'I wanted to make it a safer place not just for myself and my son but for other people I know who go into town.'

It's too early to judge the success of the West Yorkshire scheme, but a similar project has been running in Manchester since 2000. Police have reported a 12% reduction in violent crime in the city centre.

3 Get young people on board

Involving young people has worked for Waltham Forest LBC. Its Defendin' Da Hood scheme is all about

cutting gun crime. Launched in 2004, it was highly commended in this year's LGC Awards.

Events have ranged from a gathering of six rival gangs to showcase their musical talents, to an event attended by 400 young Muslims to discuss the alienation they felt after the London bombings.

The scheme is supported by the police, the NHS, housing associations and other partners.

Waltham Forest's violent crime lead officer Mike Jervis says: 'Young people from all over the place know about Defendin' Da Hood and it's helping to break down so many barriers.'

The reason the scheme works, he adds, is that young people are directly involved in planning its activities and events. As well as the scheme's partnership board being chaired by a 20 year-old, there are eight young people on it.

The project has around 2,700 people on its database who were previously involved with, or on the periphery of, gang culture and who now want to improve their lives and community. They can be contacted by text message.

The first Defendin' Da Hood event had an immediate impact and the police measured a 40% reduction in violent crime from the two weeks before the event to two weeks after it.

'When young people are on board, it is always going to work,' says Mr Jervis. 'We give respect and we earn respect.'

4 Publish crime statistics

Merton LBC has learned that the perception of crime is often scarier than the reality, so telling the real story can help.

Safer Merton is a partnership between the authority, police, fire service, Sutton & Merton Primary Care Trust and the probation service. It is responsible for tackling crime, anti-social behaviour and substance misuse.

A key part of the service is its website. Last month Merton began publishing crime statistics for each ward and in the first three weeks there were around 60 hits per ward for that information.

Safer Merton strategy officer Caroline Ellis says: 'We have the third lowest crime rate in London, but we do have a problem with fear of crime - a disproportionate fear. One of the reasons behind getting the crime statistics out there is to show people that it's not as bad as they think. Showing them the true extent of the crime in their area will hopefully reduce their fear of crime.'

The authority has also launched a crime alert system which sends out e-mails warning people of problems such as car crime, burglary and street robbery, where it is happening and what they can do to stop becoming a victim.

Alerts about handbags being stolen from shopping trolleys and the back of pushchairs were issued last October to all nurseries and older people's clubs; this led to a 56% reduction in this kind of crime.

5 Track crime

True collaborative working is helping in the fight against crime for Middlesbrough Council, which has been running its Active Intelligence Mapping system since 2003.

Under AIM, the council meets weekly with local agencies including the police, fire service and probation service to share intelligence and identify, discuss and analyse problems with crime and anti-social behaviour. Data is exchanged on a daily basis.

Ed Chicken, head of community protection service for the authority, says: 'We agree where we are going to put our resources and we are that bit better focused.'

One such example was a car crime hotspot on a particular street that was close to a secure car park. After being analysed, it was decided to make it a priority route so whenever a council, police or a fire vehicle was returning to base, it would patrol slowly down that street to deter crime. It was then decided to paint yellow lines to stop people parking there and to persuade them to use the secure car park.

'Reducing crime and disorder is a foundation to our regeneration aspirations,' says Mr Chicken. 'There's no point spending money on beautiful buildings and infrastructure if we are going to allow crime to run rife.'

The approach has made an impact. An independent study into the first two years of AIM revealed there had been a 17.4% crime reduction in its first year and 3.9% in its second.

Find out more

British crime statistics and crime

reduction information www.crimereduction.gov.uk/

sta_index.htm

Safer Merton www.safermerton.org.uk

Defendin' Da Hood Michael Jervis, violent crime lead

officer: 0208 496 1789

AIM Project Safer Middlesbrough Partnership:

www.safermiddlesbrough.co.uk

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