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INSIDER - WHY COMMUNITY SAFETY OFFICERS ARE FEELING THE HEAT

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What do we want? Reorganisation...
What do we want? Reorganisation

Community safety officers are calling for ministers to get on with reorganisation - because two-tier councils are being driven crazy by the impractical way money is distributed by county councils.

Things become especially tricky when two-tier areas amalgamate their funding streams into the Safer & Stronger Communities Fund.

'In an authority with two basic command units and two crime and disorder reduction partnerships, it is proving exceedingly difficult to manage and commission services and projects to be delivered by March 2007 across the county,' explains one officer.

She continues: 'None of the four partnerships have commissioned work on this scale before and are finding it complex and slow.

'Any project over£3000 has to go to tender, and by the time we identify who is to deliver the work, we will have run out of time.'

Stopping the spiral

Coping with nuisance and anti-social behaviour is a feat in itself but what community safety officers are now tasked with is preventing more minor crimes such as graffiti, fly-posting and vandalism from spiralling into a culture of insurmountable violent crime.

For example, where do councils start to combat the problems of gang and knife violence?

'There are more and more people carrying weapons for their protection against violence that can break out unexpectedly, which raises concerns over domestic violence too,' says one.

'Of particular concern is the growing problem of emerging social trends, in terms of the way people resort to violence over minor issues.'

Endless meetings

When will community safety officers be allowed to actually get some work done? They are bending over backwards trying to get neighbourhood policing into full swing, but struggling to figure out how to integrate their multi-agency and problem solving get-togethers with existing crime reduction and community development meetings. 'We seem to spend all our time in discussions and none of it actually getting the job done,' complains one exasperated officer. And there's no hope for quick outcomes from local area agreements either - surprise, surprise. Progress on their development is painfully slow, says one. How can they agree on the actions to take if they can't agree on the necessary priorities? It seems that partners can't agree on what the strongest argument is when entering into discussions.

Government will need to pull its finger out and come up with ways to strengthen existing agreements before extending them further to other areas next April.

To join the community safety Insider email: jennifer.sprinks@emap.com. Views published anonymously

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