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Agenda item

Community Safety Plan 2015-16

To note the contents of the Dartford and Gravesham Community Safety Partnership (CSP) Community Safety Plan 2015-16 (attached at Appendix A to the report) agreed by the CSP at its meeting on 19 March 2015 and comment accordingly.

Minutes:

The Committee were asked to consider the Dartford and Gravesham Community Safety Plan 2015-16 (attached as Appendix A to the report) and comment accordingly.

 

The covering report reminded Members that the Committee, at its meeting on 11 February 2015 had considered the CSP’s annual Strategic Assessment (SA) 2014 document. The priorities identified in the 2014 SA document, together with the views expressed by partner agencies within the CSP and elected Members, had been taken forward in to the Community Safety Plan for 2015-16. The Plan had been discussed and agreed by the CSP at their meeting on 19 March 2015. The Plan guides the work of all CSP partner agencies and ensures that the focus upon the Community Safety Partnership’s agreed priorities is maintained.

 

The Community Safety Manager (CSM) confirmed the following points and key areas regarding the 2015-16 Plan for Members:

 

·         The Plan was a statutory requirement strategically linked to the CSP’s 2014 SA document;

·         The Priorities identified in the 2014 SA remained the same as those identified in the previous year and had been incorporated into the 2015-16 Plan as combating - Anti-Social behaviour (ASB), Violent crime including domestic abuse (DA), Substance misuse (alcohol and drug-related), Property Crime (domestic burglary and theft offences), Reducing re-offending, Road Safety;

·         Kent Police statistics had been analysed  and distilled for the 2015-16 Financial Year prior to incorporation into the Plan;

·         Preventing Violent Extremism through the delivery of the Government’s Prevent Strategy, a key part of the Government’s CONTEST counter-terrorism strategy responding to the ideological challenge of terrorism and those promoting it;

·         Safeguarding Children – promoting their welfare and preventing child sexual exploitation (CSE) were major challenges which all local authorities had to get right;

·         Partnership Structures set out in the Plan [Agenda p. 30] were designed to ensure the CSP’s Priorities identified in the Plan were delivered and the performance and progress of the work undertaken by the CSP Sub-Groups effectively monitored;

·         Road Safety Group – the Group’s Speed Watch scheme undertaken by local resident on a voluntary basis continued to be effective in reducing speeding throughout the Borough. The Scheme had no enforcement powers but offending drivers were notified by letter sent by Kent Police that they had been speeding and persistent repeat offenders could be visited by Police Officers and formally warned;

·         Reducing Re-offending Group – a success for the Group was the voluntary tagging of re-offenders scheme. Funding had been given to the Group to enable offenders being released to have appropriate documentation to allow them to access services and benefits in an effort to reduce the likelihood of reoffending;

·         Drug & Alcohol Action Group – the Group had recently produced a local Alcohol Strategy following an action from the Health and Wellbeing Board, other actions had included the promotion of the  Needle Exchange programme to tackle the number of discarded needles (thankfully few in number) and combating the increased use of so-called ‘Legal Highs’.

 

The Lead Member for Enforcement & Community Safety noted the relationship between CSP’s Plan for 2015-16 and the Council’s Corporate Plan (CP). With specific reference to the principal theme in the CP for a Safer Community and Strategic Objective SC2 – to reduce anti-social behaviour (ASB), he asked what CSP partner agencies were doing to address the recent influx of unauthorised traveller encampments in the Borough.

 

The Divisional Commander, Kent Police gave the Committee an overview of recent Traveller incursions into the Borough and the attendant problems including instances of anti-social behaviour (ASB) and other infringements that had been causing Dartford residents increasing concern.

 

He advised Members that whilst a raft of legislation existed to address Traveller and Gypsy issues, the Powers were discretionary and all the relevant criteria had to be met in each case before the Police could take enforcement action. The Powers could only be taken at Inspector level (and above) and required the agreement of the relevant landowner in the case of encampments or other land use by Traveller groups. Landowners, for a variety of reasons did not always give that permission. Not all Traveller encampments were unlawful, and even when they were, the safety and welfare of the Travellers concerned had to be taken into account by the Police and CSP partner agencies. The lack of adequate transit sites for Travellers throughout Kent was an added complicating factor in addressing Traveller issues and the process of moving new encampments out of the Borough. Kent Police and the Council were in the process of finalising a new and revised Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to address traveller issues in the Borough going forward, including a greater supporting role for senior Police and Council Officers in support of the CSU Police Inspector.

 

In response to further specific questions from a Member, the Divisional Commander and the EARS/CSU Manager confirmed the following points:

 

·         Kent Police had taken enforcement action against two Traveller sites in the Borough in the previous 18 month period Section 61 legislation with effective outcomes being achieved within a matter of hours;

·         The more recent incursions by Travellers were being addressed jointly by Kent Police and CSU Officers with revised procedures being formalised in the new MoU, but it remained the case that Section 61 Powers were discretionary and all criteria had to be met before enforcement could be sanctioned;

·         The new MoU recognised the rights of both Travellers under the settled community and the need to ensure the care and welfare needs of Travellers and their families were safeguarded, whilst taking robust action against crime and anti-social behaviour;

·         Council Officers could in theory seize Traveller vehicles, but the safety of those Officers had to be taken into account before contemplating such action, given their lack of arresting powers. Acting in conjunction with Police Officers was preferable;

·         Single Traveller encampments were more difficult to resolve, especially if kept clean and didn’t pose an obstruction in road traffic terms;

·         Evidence of criminal damage, nuisance, ASB was required by local authorities before eviction could take place under Section 77 of the Act, but eviction could generally be effected in 3-4 days, provided a Court was available to hold the proceedings;

·         Senior Police Officers would take a more hands-on role under the new MoU arrangements offering guidance and advice to the CSU Inspector including acting in his absence.

 

The EARS and CSU Manager confirmed that he supported a revised MoU with Kent Police, which clearly defined the roles of the respective parties and the areas for joint working. The problem of loose horses in the Borough had been successfully tackled through joint working with CSP partners and he expected the new MoU to produce similar positive outcomes. Kent as a whole had experienced unprecedented Traveller and Gypsy activity with seventeen (17) Traveller incursions taking place in Dartford alone in 2015. Early intervention to combat incidents of Traveller incursion was vital, with good multi-agency intelligence sharing essential to ensure problems were solved and not just moved on to the next Borough. Members and residents had an essential role to play in intelligence gathering to help the CSU and Kent Police identify problems in their Wards e.g. fly-tipping hotspots. Passing on these details to the CSU would enable the Unit and Kent Police to ‘target harden’ and tackle the major and significant problems and help make Dartford a ‘hostile’ environment for unauthorised encampments in the future.

 

The Strategic Director advised the Committee that she had been working with community safety issues since 2004. A previous cycle of unauthorised incursions into the Borough had led firstly to the formation of the Enforcement Team and then the expansion into the Community Safety Unit jointly staffed by Council and Kent Police Officers. The Council had devoted considerable resources into ‘target hardening’ between 2004 and 2014 to address unauthorised encampments in the Borough. However, she stressed that in the last two months incursions into the Borough were more determined and aggressive with the aim of working, not holidaying or socialising. The Authority was pushing this message out to the general public and Dartford residents who gave temporary and other longer –term work to the Traveller community and the implications this held for the Borough. Discussions would also be held with landowners who tolerated unauthorised encampments and educate them as to the impact that allowing such settlement on their land held for the community as a whole. In cases of fly-tipping and other anti-social activity the Council would seek to prosecute offenders. The public had a duty of care to their community and Members had an important role to play in educating their constituents and providing information to the CSU of unauthorised encampments, fly-tipping and other ASB activity in their Wards.

 

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.    That the Committee notes the contents of the CSP’s Community Safety Plan for 2015-16.

 

Supporting documents: