News Archive

Ken Part Two

by msecadm4921

The second half of Ken’s article on community safety.

Police Consultative Committees were set up after the Scarman Report (1981).

These committees were largely dependent on the police whose knowledge remained in the main unchallenged. However, it is in my experience the committee meetings open to the public provided an opportunity for concerns of crime and anti-social disorder to be aired in public.
The Exeter (Devon) Police Consultative Committee during my membership in the late eighties and early nineties consisted of elected councillors, and members from a variety of organisations including education. The committee listened to complaints from the public and various agencies in respect of concerns of criminal activity. In the main, this consisted of matters of anti-social behaviour.
One complaint was from hospital staff, of violence and the fear of violence whilst on duty particularly in the reception areas. I was requested by the committee to investigate these allegations. These allegations were substantiated and resulted in a paper published in ‘Regulatory Law and Practice’ on violence in the National Health Service. Additions were made to the security arrangements and the Police had their own office installed within the main hospital complex. By listening and working together, many public concerns can be resolved.

The Police and Magistrates Courts Act 1994, changed the face of Police Consultative Committees; it is no secret many opposed the suggested changes. However they appear to be working reasonably well the committees I have attended are smaller with additional members of the police authority usually in attendance.
However there is an area of concern in respect of these meetings. Police with all the good intentions in the world on occasions fail to keep to their promises of action to be taken on complaints of crime and other anti-social occurrences. I appreciate this maybe due to lack of resources, however it brings about a mistrust of the police. Something that could so easily be avoided. Promises in whatever form should be kept, if this is not possible then an apology should be given.


It is surprising that members of the Private Security Industry are not encouraged to these public meetings. (I have not seen them present at the meetings I have attended.) Today they patrol housing estates, business parks, shopping mulls, sports centres car parks etc. Performing these duties, the private police gain considerable information of use to police and community safety officers. This body would be an asset to Community Safety Partnerships.
In the past fifteen years, many within the Private Police have received training and provide a good service. Is it not time that they were brought in from the cold? Perhaps when the delayed ‘Private Security Bill’ is passed those registered will be more acceptable to public police and other agencies.


Approaches to crime prevention and reduction have increasingly focused on the need for effective and timely responses to offending by young offenders. The Community Safety Partnerships have an important role to play in tackling the area of youth offending by examining activities available that reduce boredom and act as preventative measures.
Home Office research reveals that among 14 to 25 year olds one in two males and one in three females admit to having committed an offence; this clearly shows the urgency needed in dealing with youth crime.
It has long been recognised by many police officers but not all, that prevention is not a matter for the police alone. This is accepted it has implications for almost every aspect of life. It must be conceived and enacted as a multi-disciplinary activity. Police and other government resources both human and material, cannot themselves be adequate for the growing task of prevention. Other various agencies must work with the community to bring about ‘self care’. John Alderson argued ‘The modern Police Officer see themselves as mobile responds to incidents, technology is seduction. The car, the radio and the computer dominate the police scene. The era of the preventative police is phasing out in favour of a response or a reactive police. The loss of the visible police officer has resulted in loss of confidence. Police appearing to have only a minor interest in crime prevention.’


When Neighbourhood Watch expanded beyond all expectations, the police could not service this astronomical growth in volunteers. Then neglected until the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, came into being, resulting in the police reactivating the good, the volunteers, in Neighbourhood Watch and other agencies working in partnership.
A well run Neighbourhood Watch can pay dividends. In Kenton, Devon, my previous place of abode, such a scheme was run by restaurant owners a wife and her husband. This resulted in arrest of an active team of burglars raiding country homes, due to NW members noting the registration numbers of unusual vehicles. A team stealing from telephone kiosk that were active in the SW and South of England reported to police acting suspiciously. Police due to the excellent work of the Kenton NW made a number of other arrests. NW can be an enormous asset to the local community, reducing crime and the fear of crime and of considerable assistance to police.


The stresses upon policing has never before been so intense, shortage of staff, increased paper load makes its dilemmas even more acute. This has resulted in difficulties for police to respond to the public ever increasing demands, in particular to a pattern of accelerating growth of violent crime and vandalism.
Of particular concern to police and the public is the growing drug culture particularly among the younger members of our society. These concerns of crime are not only an urban problem but also an increasing rural problem. The community are entitled to a safe environment in their homes and in their places of work. The fear of crime is escalating within rural communities and this is due to not seeing the ‘Bobby on the Beat’. Attending a Norfolk Community Safety Police Liaison Committee after the Martin case. I was surprised at the many concerns of the Norfolk Communities in particular in villages. There was a considerable fear of crime. Considerable crime not being reported such as workman’s tools stolen from sheds, tools that cost time and money to replace.
It would improve the publics present concerns on crime and disorder if police numbers were more visible. This undoubtedly would reduce the fear of crime, particularly amongst the elderly and improve their quality of life. This of course would not clear up and prevent all crime. For the fact is the real force, which police society lies outside its professional service, in the strength and quality of societies structures, relationships and values.


Data Quality – There is opportunity to use members of the voluntary sector within a partnership to prevent crime in particular repeat victimization. Analysis relies almost totally on the information of recorded crimes held by police.
In Exeter Victim Support contacted the Crime Prevention Panel when elderly or disabled persons were burgled who had no visible means of finance to improve security or/and immediate action was required. In one case, this was an elderly lady living alone who had left her handbag near an open window; an opportunist thief stole the handbag containing door keys etc. She became distressed fearing the criminal would return gaining entry with the house keys. The lock was re-levered within three hours reducing the chances of re-victimization and importantly reducing the fear of crime. Showing a caring attitude to victims assisted in their recovery from to what is to some a terrifying ordeal.
Victims of burglary were visited and surveys carried out. In particular, the point of entry was examined and in the event of poor door locks, these were immediately replaced with five lever locks.
In one instance, an elderly male living on his own seriously considered entering the Guinness Book of Records due to the number of burglaries that he had suffered. Although a local enquiry revealed this male was careless in letting all and sundry know when he was going away. Due to the history of continued burglaries, an intruder alarm was installed, with strict instructions as to its operation.

Trevor McDonald (TV presenter) requested assistance for one of his neighbours in Topsham near Exeter. The neighbour an elderly lady living alone had been burgled. Due to the situation of the victims dwelling, a ground floor flat with ease of access from the riverbank at the rear, plus in a quiet block of well presented flats, it was decided to install an intruder alarm. (Which was generously paid for by the TV broadcaster.) No re-victimization occurred.
However not all was plain sailing in dealing with an unfortunate elderly and disabled victim of crime. The failing we had was not completing the security improvements quickly enough. This case is worth emphasising to display the callousness of the criminals concerned.
An elderly gentleman confined to his wheelchair, severely crippled with arthritis was burgled. It was obvious to any person entering the house the occupant was disabled. His sole means of entertainment, a TV set and video was stolen Victim Support after visiting immediately made contact. An electronic lock system and communication system was installed on the front door with a remote control system on the wheelchair. Five lever locks were also installed on the front door and the rear door. Bars were placed on the rear ground floor windows. However, the day before the bars had been installed there was a re-victimization of this wonderful gentleman through this very window. Burgled again but not again repeated.
We must ask ourselves are we doing enough for the vulnerable members of society in particular the elderly and disabled. In the event of a crime such as burglary surely there should be a system in place to deal expeditously to prevent re-victimization.
The police are continuously playing a reactive role to crime, and in fairness they can do little else due to the pressures of every day demands and a shortage in police numbers. There are now installed civilian ‘Crime Reduction Officers’ in place of police Crime Prevention Officers– I asked a ‘Crime Reduction Officer’ for his job description, and he stated he did not have one. His background did not provide the experience I consider necessary to advise on crime prevention initiatives. Given time this particular ‘officer’ will make the grade after visiting a number of victims. But already due to his workload, it maybe several days before a visit can be made and during that period, there could be re-victimization.
It can be seen from above that by working in partnership as the Crime Prevention Panel and Victim Support, we can prevent re-victimization. Information is the key to decide on a prevention strategy based on analysis. In the course of this analysis, door-to-door enquiries were made to ascertain the problems within that community.


Although the above was carried out with other victims without police involvement it would be useful to be able to interrogate police crime data and for the police themselves to supply information on such offences as burglary, bogus callers etc as soon after the event as is reasonably practicable.
(A generous locksmith and an intruder alarm installer ‘West Country Security’ provided for the examples above in most instances in Exeter, other businesses also offered financial assistance.)
In order to support Community Safety Partnerships the police have an important information-providing role to inter-agency groups. As referred to in the ‘The Home Office Standing Conference on Crime Prevention in its 1991 report ‘Safer Communities’ this report further recommended that police and other agencies should seek to ensure that their information systems are compatible to aid data exchange.
Community Safety Groups cannot provide successful strategies to prevent crime if they are not informed of the crime committed in their areas and as soon after the event as is practicable. For example ‘Burglary’, ‘Bogus Callers’, ‘gaining entry to homes in particularly of the elderly. Supplying such information will prevent re-victimization that is an important part of Community Safety Strategies. There continues to be a need for ‘cultural change’ in respect of Community safety and the Multi-agency partnerships. The majority of approaches remain in police hands and based purely on the detection of crime. ‘Using the excuse of ‘Data protection’ as a means of not supplying information on individual crimes will not do if there is to be a true partnership in providing community safety. However I appreciate the victim may ask that details of the offence be not disclosed; this wish of course should be respected.
Community Safety and crime reduction programs have been seen as a threat to the traditional independence of the police service. We are all in a partnership working to provide safer communities. The watch members themselves appreciate improving contacts between the police and the watch groups.
I appreciate that there are limits of what can be achieved by consultation and there can be consultation overload. To a number of police officers it is a real challenge raised by the process of widening access information. After all the Crime and Disorder Act places particular emphasis on extending public participation in community safety plans that must reflect local views and opinions. The agenda has highlighted the need to extend the involvement of the public, both as consumers of local services and as local taxpayers, via more effective consultation arrangements.


It is important that there is information sharing between police and the voluntary sector of the Criminal Justice System.
1 Information received should be acknowledged with action taken.
2 Arrest as a result of information supplied should also be conveyed to the informant of the voluntary body, and at a later date the result of any prosecution.
3 Information on crime in a Community Safety Neighbourhood Watch area are not always reported to the local co-ordinators who can assist re preventing re-victimization and reduce the threat elsewhere, as with bogus callers.
4 Police give various reasons for not supplying information on crime including on a regular basis the ‘data Protection Act’. Whenever a crime is reported, the police officer receiving the complaint has only to ask the victim if the information can be passed onto the local Community safety-Neighbourhood Watch organisation.
5 It is essential that the supply of information is a two way operation to ensure that the volunteer is encouraged and that Community Safety Neighbourhood Watch groups can effectively plan their strategies in reducing crime.
Essex has the reputation of being riddled with crime, this is not the case it is one of the safest counties in the UK. I was surprised when reallocating from Devon to Essex and researching crime figures that Essex compares favourably with Devon.
Wivenhoe is an attractive small town in Constables Country in Essex situated on the River Colne, six miles East of Colchester. Its population of approaching 10,000 has a variety of occupations many however are employed at the University of Essex and there are a number of commuters to London.


There are about 1,000 youths who have a thriving football club with stadium, tennis, cricket, sailing, sea scouts, drama and a youth club. There is a good library with computers for public use. Five public houses, three restaurants, Fifteen retail businesses including hairdressers, estate agents etc. Also a small business centre. Wivenhoe is surrounded by farmland in addition has several areas of well cared for parkland, that includes a football pitch. There are attractive riverside walks and cycle tracks. Also there are four churches, three are well attended.
Three years ago, the two local community police officers were posted elsewhere, leaving the local police station that is now rarely occupied. There then followed an increasing number of complaints in respect of rising crime and social disorder. The community blamed this on there being no sign of visible policing. This in turn created a fear of crime among the residents of Wivenhoe.
The then Deputy Mayor Richard Davies and a local businessman Eugene Kraft together with a Crime Prevention Officer (CPO) requested that I reactivate Neighbourhood Watch. (1999) I agreed. Assisted by an enthusiastic CPO I brought a meeting together of previous members of NW. Unfortunately, the CPO was to my surprise transferred with other CPO’s to uniform duties. All respected the local CPO from Colchester and his departure caused considerable disappointment and amazement. He knew his criminals, in addition to extensive knowledge on crime prevention initiatives.
The NW group was named WIVENHOE COMMUNITY SAFETY NW COMMITTEE. It meets every six weeks to discuss local concerns. Meetings are held in the Town Hall Council Chamber and are open to members of the local community.
With the encouragement of the Colne School at Brightlingsea, Essex, where the majority of teenagers attend, pupils from that school are encouraged to attend meetings and air their views on Community safety issues. Their one main complaint was the lack of a skateboard park. The committee promised to look into this request and that was taken up by the Town Major Richard Davies a member of the committee. Various possible sites have been examined and the cost of providing a site is under consideration. Skateboard facilities elsewhere are being visited. The youths are kept informed of progress. I should add that skateboarding on the streets and footways has resulted in many complaints.
The youth through the meetings and local press releases become aware of citizens concerns over antisocial behaviour, vandalism and the dangers in use of illegal drugs. They are also approached when committing acts that are of concern to the community and advised. Usually this is drinking under age, noise and on seven occasions smoking cannabis. Five members of the committee patrol and offer advise.
All members are receiving training in the form of demonstrations and lectures on Community safety issues.
The committee consist of a cross section of the community; in attendance is usually a member(s) of Colne School.
It was discovered that considerable crime was not being reported to police for various reasons including the police are to busy, police cannot do anything, can’t get hold of the police. This discovery resulted in the public being encouraged to report crime however minor, such as car badges stolen from vehicles, fences damaged etc. Despite this recorded crime went down in 2000.
Concerns of the community were collated and forwarded to the Police in Colchester. Details were given of times and places when most occurrences took place. Police acted on this information and played an important part in the reducing crime including the antisocial behaviour, vandalism etc.
Local intelligence and observations on the small but active drugs trade gathered information. Evidence was found of the use of crack and other illegal drugs. This information was passed onto police with names and telephone numbers and meeting points. During observations, the police were contacted and made arrests for the supply of illegal drugs.
A local youth aged 14 years voiced concern at a small group experimenting with drugs, believing that they would not come to harm. Action was taken by supplying information to the school where the youths attended and police were notified of the venues used. The youth voicing concern also commented on comments by others at the lack of policing within Wivenhoe. The lack of visible policing without doubt encourages the youth to experiment in drugs and turn to crime. The fear of detection is an excellent deterrent.
It was also established that when the local youth club was not opened due to staff absence a number of members became bored and made a nuisance of themselves resulting in a number of complaints. This has resulted in volunteers being found to man the club when there is an absence of leadership – this is being considered at the time of writing.
Complaints received by the committee include, vandalism, anti-social behaviour such as noise, excessive drinking of alcohol, driving motor vehicles at access speeds. The latest two complaints are 1) Public safety Concern: -that young motor cyclist on scrub land driving to the danger of walkers and their dogs, with excessive noise. The committee will contact the Education and other agencies pointing out the dangers and the possibility of these vehicles being used on the road without tax and insurance. The other recent complaint 2) is from the occupiers of new homes of noise from youths late at night and no visible signs of police. In both these complaints the police are involved and I am satisfied that they will take action as soon as they can find the time to do so. This last complaint to many may appear to be of a minor nature. However, when people invest in recently built expensive homes and due to anti-social behaviour are considering moving away the seriousness becomes apparent.
I appreciate that the police force areas with the highest crime rates are dominated by large cities with high levels of unemployment and poverty. Sadly, it is the poorest members of society that are more likely to be burgled. However this should not mean that the rural areas be neglected by police. Such neglect has already led to an increased fear of crime and crime itself.
I am most concerned that a quarter of all prisoners have been ‘in care’ as children and feel, that we have all let these children down when surly they have suffered enough. Should not members of the ‘Community safety partnerships’ examine these important concerns?
I am convinced that well organised ‘Community Service Orders’ can prevent re-offending. My personal experience on this issue was in Devon as a Councillor and chairman of a Crime Prevention Panel. By providing work for these groups, decorating schools, church buildings and village halls. Repairing and clearing public footpaths to enable everybody to enjoy the countryside. The two Probation Officers in charge were of the practical type and demonstrated how the various tasks were to be carried out. The Community Sentence Orders took place on weekends that enabled me to talk to the offenders and view their progress. I was so pleased with their achievements I thanked the offenders for their excellent work. Without doubt, they appreciated the thanks and the free sandwiches and non-alcoholic drinks provided by myself and other Councillors. One individual remarked he had not been thanked before in all his life. Others remarked they did not appreciate they were capable of providing such work. What a sad reflection on society! Importantly the re-offending rate on this group was very low – showing a caring attitude and demonstrating that they can be employed is an essential ingredient to prevent re-offending. Lord Chief Justice Woolf hearing the above at the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies, Kings College, London, last year stated ‘How do we get this message across to the public that Community Service Orders can and do work?’


The public are fed up with hearing of the persistent offender ‘getaway with it after arrest’ There is an urgent requirement to provide swift administration of justice so that matters are dealt without delay. This will reduce the fear of crime for victims and stress waiting for justice. Prevent offenders continuing to commit offences whilst on bail. Swifter justice will provide a safer community and reduce the fear of crime within the community.
It is time that the courts used consecutive sentences instead of concurrent sentencing for offenders committing offences whilst on bail. This failure in justice encourages those on bail to continue committing offences knowing that there is only a fifty fifty chance of detection and little chance of increased sentencing.


I am grateful for the efforts of the Wivenhoe Community safety NW committee, Wivenhoe Town Council staff, Town Mayor Richard Davies, other Councillors, Essex police, the youth of Wivenhoe, Colne School and many others for being part of the Wivenhoe Partnership in providing a safer community.
I must give also thanks to Sir John Evans Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Constabulary for his support whilst I was chairman of Exeter and District Crime Prevention Panel. And of course Norfolk Constabulary where every police officer was always ready and able to assist in the work of the Thetford Crime Prevention Panel, also not forgetting the Councillors who play such an important role today in Community.

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