Agenda and minutes
Apologies For Absence
To receive any apologies of absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillor D J Mote due to a prior Mayoral duty (Substitute Cllr. M. Davis) and one for lateness from the Vice-Chairman Cllr. Sandhu.
The Chairman extended a particular welcome to Chief Inspector Neil Louden, Kent Police, who was attending his first meeting of the Committee as the new District Commander for Dartford and Gravesham. He also welcomed Inspector Gavin Wade, Dartford CSU Inspector and PCSO Julia Linden-Taylor, Dartford Youth Engagement Officer and noted welcomed the presence of the Strategic Director (External Services), the EARS & CSU Manager, the Community Safety Manager and the Community Safety Officer.
Councillor Ann Allen MBE, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Community Development, was in attendance by standing invitation.
Declarations of Interest
To receive declarations of interest from Members including the terms(s) of the Grant of Dispensation (if any) by the Audit Board or Managing Director.
There were no declarations of interest from Members, or from Cllr. Sandhu when he subsequently joined the proceedings.
To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 25 July 2018.
1. That the Minutes of the Committee’s meeting held on 25 July 2018 be confirmed as an accurate record of those proceedings.
The Chairman will announce his decision as to whether there are any urgent items and their position on the agenda.
The Chairman confirmed that there were no urgent items for Members to consider.
To consider references from other Committees (IF ANY)
There are presently, no references from other Committees for Members to consider.
There were no references from other Committees.
To note the contents of the Regulation 9 Notice for the period 15 January 2019 to 31 May 2019.
1. That the contents of the Regulation 9 Notice for the period 15 January 2019 to 31 May 2019 be noted.
To receive an update from the Chairman in his role as Dartford representative on the PCP and to note the contents of the attached published Minutes for the Panel meetings held on 19 July, 27 September and 14 November 2018 respectively.
Members were asked to note the published Minutes of the PCP meetings held on 19 July, 27 September and 14 November 2018 [agenda pages 19-42 refer].
The Chairman advised Members that he had attended the most recent meeting of the Panel on 6 February 2019 and gave the following summary of the principal matters discussed, pending publication of the Minutes by KCC.
· Police Precept: The proposal by the Kent Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) Mr Scott, to raise the Police precept in the Council Tax had been approved by the Panel. The increase would equate to a £24 annual increase in Council Tax [for each Band D property] and help fund an increase in overall Kent Police numbers of 180 new Officers. The new recruits when trained would be split on a 50:50 basis between local policing and investigations, subject to the overall operation control of the Chief Constable. Despite the proposed increase, the Police precept for Kent would remain within the 10 lowest in England. Since Mr Scott had taken office as PCC, overall Police numbers in Kent had risen by 450 Officers during his tenure to date;
· Crime Recording: The Panel had been advised that, following the latest inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) in 2018 Kent Police had regained its ‘Outstanding’ status for the recording of crime;
· Brexit: In his role as PCC for Kent, Mr Scott sat on the Home Secretary’s [centrally funded] cross-party Working Group considering appropriate civil contingency measures post Brexit, including a ‘no-deal’ scenario. Initial funding of £150K had been allocated to Kent to date, to implement any appropriate measures after 29 March 2019.
The Lead Member for Enforcement & Community Safety [in attendance as a Committee Member] reminded Members that the PCC had previously given an undertaking to review the existing 101 and 999 response services, following concerted expressions of concern from the public and Members over current service levels. The Chairman undertook to confirm what progress had been made in the interim and update Members in due course.
The Ward Member for Joyce Green and Chairman of Sutton-at-Hone and Hawley Parish Council, advised the Committee that the PCC had visited his Parish the previous week, and informed Parish Members that the public continued to use the 101 response service as a ‘stepping-stone’ to the 999 service. The PCC had formulated a plan to review both services, but pay scales and consequent staff retention, remained crucial issues still to be resolved, in his efforts to improve both services for the public.
1. That Members note the published Minutes of the Kent & Medway Police and Crime Panel (PCP) meetings held on 19 July, 27 September and 14 November 2018 as reproduced in the Agenda pages 19-42 inc.;
2. That Members note the verbal summary provided by the Chairman of the PCP meeting held on 6 February 2019.
Presentation by Kent County Council Trading Standards
To receive a presentation from Kent County Council Trading Standards Officers.
Members received a PowerPoint presentation from Oliver Jewell, Principal Trading Standards Officer, Trading Standards, Kent County Council. He advised that Kent’s Trading Standards operation had been rationalised and was now situated entirely in Ashford, and comprised of four re-structured teams:
· Complex Investigations Team - dealing with rogue traders on an in-depth basis;
· Food Chain Team;
· Business Advice Services Team – Brexit had increased the Team’s work-load considerably;
· Consumer and Public Safety Team – this comprised 8 officers under Oliver Jewell as Principal Trading Standards Officer
His presentation covered the following principal areas and work priorities of the Trading Standards operation in Kent, with particular reference to his own Consumer & Public Safety Team:
For Trading Standards Brexit remained a major unknown in terms of the impact that the final deal approved by Parliament would have on trading and business in the UK, or in the event of a ‘no-deal’ scenario, what degree of contingency and even emergency planning would be required. It was estimated that either final scenario would entail:
· An increase in work at all the Channel ports and dock operations;
· An increase in Trading Standards’ support to businesses;
· The potential for criminals to exploit continuing uncertainty over the final outcome and subsequently, particularly in the event of a ‘no-deal’ scenario;
· Significant contingency planning to prevent fuel shortages post Brexit and gridlock on the motorway and road system, in particular access to and egress from the Channel ports.
Consumer and Public Safety Team: Work Areas
· Product Safety work concentrated on preventing faulty goods reaching the marketplace, initially as an Intel led operation at the docks and other points of UK entry and subsequently by inspecting retail premises that became subject to Intel reports or public concern. All products from cosmetics to construction materials and electrical machinery were subject to safety inspection by Trading Standards. CE and UK/CE safety labelling on products was subject to regular inspection, and were companies assisted in the event of products having to be re-called from the market;
· Combating underage sales of alcohol and tobacco through an holistic and intelligence led approach between the Police, the public and young people to form effective partnership working in the community to identify and prosecute offending retailers;
· Preventing the sale of illegal alcohol and tobacco [not overly prevalent in Kent to date] and supporting vaping sales (legitimate since 2016) as a healthier alternative to smoking pending, further definitive medical evidence of the ‘benefits’ of vaping over smoking;
· Combating knife crime through an Intel led approach against suspected retailers and the enforcement of the over 25 policy;
· Supervision of petrol storage, including design and construction of petrol stations, testing for leakages, and post Brexit measures to combat petrol hoarding;
· Explosives monitoring, particularly fireworks and the possibility of bomb-making from such commonly sold products.
· Illegal tobacco could most easily be recognised by its labelling - often in a Cyrillic [rather than English] script and without the usual health warnings. These products contained more impurities than legal brands and ... view the full minutes text for item 23.
Review of Dartford's 'Safer Streets' Policy
To receive an update from Kent Police representatives.
The Chairman advised Members that prior to receiving an update from Kent Police guests on Dartford’s current Safer Streets policy; he had agreed that the Committee should be addressed by a representative from the Nepalese community resident in Dartford regarding their perceived concerns that organised criminal gangs committing burglary in the Borough were targeting Indian and Nepalese homes.
The Nepalese community representative informed Members that burglary offences in Dartford had risen consistently over the previous 6 year period, with the 100 plus families of Indian and Nepalese descent resident in Dartford appearing to suffer from this particular crime on a disproportionate basis.
He asked that increased Police resources be deployed in the town centre to combat this continued rise in burglary offences, including more resources for the Neighbourhood Watch scheme, and asked how his resident Association could help the Police to positively address the issue.
The District Commander advised that Kent Police were aware of the consistent rise in burglary offences and had a Kent Control Strategy in place to combat this particularly pernicious crime which had a major impact on victims in terms of loss, stress and personal invasion. A concerted 3-4 week operation was presently being undertaken by Kent Police in Dartford, resulting in arrests of key known criminals using Intel and CCTV footage. Dartford’s CSU Inspector would continue to work with the local community and all residents and community groups and would attend any proposed meetings, to help educate residents over measures they could adopt to help the Police further combat burglary in their areas.
The Chairman thanked Kent Police for their response and update on the measures currently being undertaken to address burglary offences in Dartford and across Kent as a whole. He undertook to facilitate a meeting between Kent Police and representatives of the Nepalese community in Dartford, outside the Committee proceedings, to help address their concerns.
The Vice-Chairman added his own thanks to the District Commander for his comments, and advised that he would be attending the next meeting of the Independent Police Advisory Group (IPAC) at Bluewater on 27 February and would raise the topic in that forum also.
Members agreed; in response to a proposal from the Borough Commander; that the Committee would consider Kent Police’s further refinements to their ‘Safer Streets’ policy for Dartford later in the proceedings, within the overall context of ‘Offences of Violence’ - as set out in the 2018 Strategic Assessment [Item 12 and EXEMP Item A refers].
Kent & Medway Gangs Strategy and County Lines
To receive a presentation from the Community Safety Manager (CSM) and Kent Police.
Members received a joint Kent Police /Dartford Council presentation from the Community Safety Manager (CSM) entitled - Kent and Medway Gangs Strategy and County Lines. The PowerPoint material covered the following principal areas:
· National Picture
· Signs, Risks and Vulnerabilities
· Kent and Medway Strategy
· How Dartford is Responding
Spread of City Gangs and County Lines
Members were given details of how so called ‘county lines’ operations had spread out North, South, East and West from the Metropolis into the Home Counties. The overall number of London Gangs was believed to have reduced from 230 down to 180 with an overall gang membership of some 3,000 individuals. ‘County lines’ activity appeared to operate across most of Kent. Dartford was not a ‘hotspot’ but had its issues.
Definition of a Gang
Members were advised that the Home Office (HO) defined a group of people involved in violence as a gang if they consisted of 3 or more people and had one or more characteristics that enabled its members to be identified by others.
Kent Police refined the HO gang definition further, by recognising a distinction between:
· Organised criminal gangs associated with level 2 criminality [Kent, Surrey and Sussex];
· Gangs maintaining ‘drug lines’ across the county of Kent;
· Those who have a more nebulous link to gangs and a ‘youth culture’ based on a ‘tag line’ or postcode affiliation.
The activities of the second and third categories listed above, in particular, exhibited a potent form of Child Criminal Exploitation.
Gangs could be broken down into the following tiered structure:
· Highest Tier – the ‘Elder’ or ‘Boss’ who often owned their own business for laundering drugs and money with average daily turnover of £3K upwards;
· Middle Tier – ‘Shotters’ or ‘Generals’ who were the main enforcers in a gang, researched new areas for drug demand, organised recruitment, supervised the lower tier and crossed ‘county lines’ during their activities;
· Lower Tier- ‘Wrappers’ were back room staff who prepared Class A drugs for sale. ‘Youngers’ (including kids) carried knives and committed street robberies. The most vulnerable ‘Youngers’ usually looked after the younger children on a ‘gang family’ basis. New recruits entered the gang family at this level.
Safeguarding – National Issue
· The age of children now dealing on behalf of gangs was getting progressively younger;
· As a consequence education around gangs was being targeted at a younger audience and age-group;
· The backgrounds of those being recruited to gangs showed that youths, early school-age teenagers and even younger children were all easy targets. Children from single parent families or with a parent who was a drug user were also particularly susceptible to recruitment, and attracted by the gang as a role model;
· Younger children [pre-Secondary school age] were being increasingly recruited by gangs because they were harder for the authorities to identify and re-educate.
Members were shown two short hard-hitting video excerpts, featuring real gang members being interviewed [with their features hidden] talking about the reality of their existence as gang members. The difficulties ... view the full minutes text for item 25.
To note the draft Work Plan for the 2019-20 municipal year and beyond attached at Appendix A to the report.
1. That Members approve the contents for the Committee’s rolling Work Programme for the 2019-20 municipal year and beyond, as set out in Appendix A to the report [agenda pages 47-48 refer].
The next meeting of the Committee will take place on 24 July 2019, subject to formal confirmation at Annual Council on 22 May.
Members were advised that the next meeting of the Committee in the forthcoming 2019-20 municipal year would take place on Wednesday 24 July 2019 - subject to confirmation at the Annual Meeting on 22 May.
EXCLUSION OF THE PRESS AND PUBLIC
The Chairman advised that, in accordance with Section 100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended); he was required to ask that any member(s) of the press and public present vacate the Council Chamber prior to consideration of the next item - Dartford and Gravesham Community Safety Partnership (CSP) Strategic Assessment 2018 [Item A in the EXEMPT agenda papers].
Following the departure of a representative of the Press, the Committee continued their discussions in closed session.
To consider the Dartford and Gravesham Community Safety Partnership (CSP) Draft Strategic Assessment 2018 [Item A in the EXEMPT agenda papers] as presented to the CSP on 17 January 2019.
The Community Safety Manager (CSM) advised Members that despite the annual Strategic Assessment 2018 being marked as a draft document [Item A in the EXEMPT agenda papers refers]; it had been agreed by the CSP at their meeting on 17 January 2019 (subject to minor amendments) and that no further changes to the document before them were possible.
He reminded that the Strategic Assessment (SA) exercise was conducted annually, but that the 2018 SA was particularly significant, as it formed the first stage of the decision making process to formulate the new three-year Community Safety Strategy to guide the Partnership’s work between April 2019 and March 2022.
The views and perceptions of local people were recognised as being important to achieving long-term change, and priorities emerging from the 2018 SA would be subject to public consultation prior to them forming the base building-block for the Community Safety Strategy (2019-2022).
The 2018 SA was also significant in that the data it contained was deemed to be consistent with the current Home Office crime categories, and the statistics compiled by Kent Police conformed to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) standards and, as a consequence, the SA 2018 figures would be used by the CSP for comparative analysis purposes, year-on-year, going forward.
The CSM raised the following detailed points with Members in relation to the 2018 SA:
Total Crime 1 October 2017 to 30 September 2018
· Total Crime in Dartford for the period under review [agenda p.56] was 13,310 offences amounting to 123.4 offences per 1,000 of the population, slightly higher than the Kent-wide average of 107.7 offences;
· Violent Crime in Dartford had also increased, and was above the Kent average due in part to the impact of changes to national crime recording practices, but was nevertheless a concern for the CSP. Members were reassured that 50% of crimes categorised as violent did not result in actual injury to a person. The CSM outlined for Members the principal hotspots for such crime in the Borough;
· Domestic Abuse (DA) cases had risen sharply in the year under review, again due in part to changes in recording practices, whereby each historic offense disclosed involving the same victim and perpetrator, was now recorded as a separate crime. Funding from the Home Office Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Transformation Fund, to deliver the ‘Altogether Safer Project’ across the Dartford and Gravesham CSP in the current 3 year cycle, had been increased by £19K in 2018 to extend the ‘Out of Hours’ Service and strengthen ‘Choose Respect’ work;
· Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) had seen a significant reduction. In Dartford incidents of ASB recorded by Kent Police had decreased by 26.7% with the work of the Community Wardens and the CSO making a real impact both in the Town Centre and the Parishes. This trend was reflected across Kent, although the decrease in Dartford was greater than that seen elsewhere in Kent. A drop in the number of repeat offenders was seen as particularly positive. There ... view the full minutes text for item 29.