Dartford and Gravesham Community Safety Partnership Strategic Assessment 2017
- Meeting of Crime and Disorder (Overview and Scrutiny) Committee, Wednesday 21 February 2018 7.00 pm (Item 27.)
To consider the Dartford and Gravesham Community Safety Partnership Strategic Assessment 2017 as presented to the CSP on 25 January 2018.
The covering report from the Community Safety Manager (CSM) asked Members in accordance with Committee’s Terms of Reference and as an Overview function on an annual basis; to consider the Dartford and Gravesham Community Safety Partnership (CSP) Strategic Assessment 2017 [Appendix A to the report - attached as Item A in the EXEMPT agenda papers].
Members were reminded of the Strategic Assessment (SA) process, conducted each year by the Dartford & Gravesham CSP to ensure the Partnership continued to address crime and anti-social Behaviour (ASB) issues impacting on its communities, through the collation and analysis of data collected across the Partnership’s agencies. The views of Dartford and Gravesham residents concerning crime and community safety issues in their communities also formed part of the Strategic Assessment process.
The Community Safety Officer (CSO) informed Members that the Strategic Assessment process in 2017 had presented the Partnership with a unique challenge, because the established way of assessing performance; through comparing and contrasting levels of crime outcomes with those of previous years against identified priorities and objectives and identified cross-cutting themes; had been compromised following the changes to Home Office rules for recording crime and the associated inspection of Kent Police in early 2017 by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).
The HMIC inspection report (published in April 2017) had rated Kent Police’s recording of crime as ‘Inadequate’ estimating that more than 24,000 (16%) of offences across the County had gone unrecorded by the Force between June and November 2016. The inaccuracy of that data had compromised the opportunity to analyse crime levels and compare them against those of previous years and by extension, properly monitor performance and delivery against identified objectives in the 2016 SA. In addition, comparison between the 2016 data and that collated by Kent Police in 2017 [post the HMIC inspection] also became problematical, as was a comparison of the Partnership’s performance in 2017 against other CSPs in its Most Similar Group (MSG).
The CSO referred Members to the Performance Summary tables set out on pages 4 and 5 of the 2017 SA document [agenda pages 66/67] as a more relevant comparison tool to assess the CSP’s performance in 2017. The tables for Dartford and Gravesham respectively, detailed the performance of each Borough by Crime Type against the Annual Crime Figure by Type for the County and the Annual Changes in those figures on a County basis. The trend in performance for each crime type was indicated by a coloured directional arrow [rather than a % figure]: a green arrow for Improvement in performance, red arrow for Deterioration and blue for No Change in performance. It was noted that Dartford had recorded improvements in performance in 2017 for the crime categories of: Theft from Motor Vehicle, Theft of Pedal Cycle and Substance Misuse. Improvements in tackling Anti-Social Behaviour had also been recorded in Dartford in comparison to a deterioration in such measures recorded at a County level in 2017.
In response to a broad spectrum of questions from individual Members, the following points were confirmed variously by the EARS &CSU Manager, the CSM and CSO and the District Commander and CSU Inspector:
· Communication: By the CSU with local residents was paramount in terms of re-assuring communities, ensuring resources were being targeted where most needed, and to make the public aware of the measures being undertaken to tackle specific crime types including Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB);
· Councillors Role: Members had an important role to play in assuring residents that they could and should report their fears and concerns to the CSU and that appropriate action would be taken to tackle individual crime types and spikes in criminal activity. Good 2-way communication with the Dartford’s Parishes was also seen as important;
· Council’s Housing Team: Meetings with residents attended by the CSM were a particularly useful conduit to address resident concerns and receive feed-back on emerging crime patterns and resident concerns;
· CSP’s 2017 SA: Produced by Dartford CSU in 2017 jointly by the CSM and CSO, the 2017 SA was a useful document (despite its constraints) which had helped to highlight the step-change demanded of Kent Police to conform to the various requirements of the revised Home Office Crime Counting Rules [as identified by the HMIC in their 2017 inspection report of the Force] and the important themes of Victim-led and Safeguarding processes now demanded of all Forces by Government;
· CSU Daily Briefings: These were always attended by Kent Police and regularly by the Strategic Director (ES) and representatives from other relevant Council departments and partner agencies and continued to effectively identify emerging crime trends and spikes in crime, with efforts to tackle moped crime a particular recent success;
· Victim Numbers: were not seen as a more effective barometer for performance, given the argument that 30 crimes against a single victim equated to 30 victims suffering the same crime: but victim numbers for certain categories of crime could provide greater overall context;
· Victim Specific Burglaries: There was no data to suggest that any one group was being targeted by burglars operating in the Borough. However, there had been a number of burglaries in recent months where residents appeared to have been targeted, but similar robberies were also prevalent in Essex, Sussex and Surrey. Kent Police were profiling the victims to try and identify any common factors amongst them. The PCSO street profile had also been raised in the affected Wards and residents alerted to the increased burglary trend in their area. A CSU/Kent Police meeting with residents in the affected area(s) was planned for March to give further crime tips e.g. ‘Lock and Stop’ and review existing Neighbourhood Watch measures;
· Brent and Joydens Wood: The proximity of both Dartford Wards to London and the major arterial routes of the A2 and M25 were seen as factors in a recorded rise in burglaries in those areas and Kent Police had invested heavily with colleagues in the Met and Bexley Forces in an effort to profile, identify and arrest these cross-border criminals;
· Bluewater Crime: Statistics for Bluewater continued to be separated out from those for Dartford and it was noted that the Police Team in Bluewater operated separately from the Dartford CSU but under the same Police Inspector.
The Chairman asked whether the ‘Victim Withdrawals’ statistics set out for Dartford in the 2017 SA (p. 13/14) were high and/or reflected a disengagement from the process by victims and if the latter were there any reasons.
The District Commander advised Members that Domestic Abuse (DA) cases and those involving other forms of inner or inter-family conflict suffered from the highest number of victim withdrawals, post charges being lodged with the Police.
The CSU Inspector informed Members that Kent Police were looking at ways to increase the number of prosecutions without the support of the victim, in particular for DA and inter-family cases, through the use of video footage taken when a victim first reported a crime. In this way victim’s initial statements together with any other evidence, could be used in cases where victims subsequently withdrew a complaint. The other most common case of ‘Victim Withdrawal’ was from members of the public on a Monday following the mutual resolution of complaints initially made on a Friday/Saturday night, often under the influence of alcohol. Unfortunately, in terms of crime recorded, such incidents remained in the Crime Counting records.
The Community Safety Officer (CSO) informed Members that the Kent Witness Care Unit had undertaken a review of Victim Withdrawal (VW) cases but were not unduly concerned. The key category for VW cases was DA, but the majority of victims simply wanted the abuser to be removed quickly; and provided the abuser was; they were not interested in prosecuting the case, just solving the immediate problem. DA cases in particular were complex with many layers and contexts, with victims, in the main, wanting quick fixes to immediate problems. The overall figures for VW looked high but were good in a Kent and national context.
The EARS & CSU Manager made the following positive points in response to a Member’s expressed concern that the work undertaken to address CSP Priorities [as set out in pages 6-10 of the 2017 SA] appeared to concentrate on measures and resources devoted in the main to the Borough of Gravesham:
· The Dartford & Gravesham CSP was the only joint operation in Kent and the 2017 SA document reflected this;
· Both Borough’s had recorded an increase in crime in the period under review but Dartford’s was lower and also below the Kent District average whilst Gravesham’s was higher on both counts and the Priorities identified in the 2017 SA reflected this;
· Dartford benefited from an established Vulnerability Forum;
· Dartford’s Dartford Town against Crime (DTAC) business crime partnership was acknowledged as the best operating in Kent whereas in contrast, recruitment of Safer Place Officers for Gravesham Town Centre was an identified priority;
· Dartford benefited from having retained in-house control of its CCTV operation in the Town Centre and beyond in contrast to Gravesham who had out-sourced their CCTV operation to a contractor in Medway;
· DBC’s Taxi and Private Hire Licensing Regulations and operation was highly regarded across Kent in terms of its commitment to Safeguarding of passengers and counter terrorism awareness;
· Dartford CSU’s Tasking and Co-ordination format was also highly regarded across Kent.
The Chairman next addressed his concerns over Gangs operating in Dartford [as set out at pages 16/17 of the SA] and proposed that the Committee scrutinise the topic in detail, including the cross-border and London aspects of the topic, as a specific Draw-Down item at the next meeting in July 2018.
The Lead Member for Enforcement & Community Safety supported the Chairman’s proposal with the added request that details of resources devoted to cross-border policing and attendant finances form part of the report presented to Members in July.
The CSU Inspector assured Members that Gang-related crime in Dartford was not a major area of activity in the Borough. Only 4 (four) gangs were known to be operating in Dartford none of which had known cross-border or London associations to organised crime. The CPSO teams operating out of the CSU were concentrating on low-level gang activity and ASB, and the CSU updated their data bases with the latest Intel as and when it was received.
The Community Safety Manager (CSM) supported the Inspector in his comments over Gang-related crime in Dartford which was profiled as low-level and mainly ASB orientated. The CSU had a very effective ASB Unit with good working connections to the Council’s Housing Department and their resident contact Groups. The CSU had also recently provided training with CSP Partners to increase understanding of the threats posed by Gangs, including those relayed to the CSU by the Council’s Early Help Officers working in Dartford’s communities. The CSU remained vigilant in its efforts to tackle Gang activity in Dartford responding as required, and continued to raise awareness of the issues, as necessary, with residents in the community.
The Portfolio Holder for Community Development advised Members that she had attended the recent CSU training which she praised, awareness of the issues was vital and it was hoped to feed-back the results from the training and the community participants to the Committee in the coming months.
1. That Members note the contents of the Dartford and Gravesham Community Safety Partnership Strategic Assessment 2017 (Appendix A to the report) enclosed as Item A in the EXEMPT part of the agenda;
2. That Members note the priorities identified by the Dartford and Gravesham Community Safety Partnership in the 2017 Strategic Assessment;
3. That Members note the Dartford and Gravesham Community Safety Partnership’s intention to refresh the Community Safety Plan to address the priorities identified in its Strategic Assessment 2017 and that a refreshed Plan be submitted to the next meeting of the Committee in July 2018.
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