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Agenda item

Dartford and Gravesham Draft Community Safety Partnership (CSP) Strategic Assessment 2018

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.

Minutes:

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 had also been a significant drop in deliberate fires (arson) in Dartford;

·         Fly-tipping Dartford Council reported all incidences of and would continue to do so as a priority;

·         Reducing Offending and Reoffending [agenda p.52]: the focus within this priority would be the disruption of serious and organised crime and preventing and reducing Youth reoffending (with an emphasis on gang-related activity). The CSP would draw-up a 3 year plan to address the issue, but funding would be key to its success.

·         Serious Organised Crime – Youth reoffending [agenda p.69]: deterring young people from becoming involved in crime and preventing Youth reoffending was key to reducing crime in the long-term, with the CSO playing the lead role within Dartford CSU. The work relied upon intelligence from various sources and the partnership working between the Council, Kent Police, the County Council and other local authorities was explained to Members, as were the constraints of resource and funding. Kent Police’s Youth Engagement Officer for Dartford played a key role inter-acting with local young people via relevant groups and by visiting both primary and secondary schools, liaising with Head teachers to offer advice and guidance using the ‘Stay Safe’ programme at school, both in the community and on-line. The Youth Engagement Officer liaised closely with the CSO in Dartford CSU and Councillor Ann Allen, in her role as Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Community Development. Strong ties had also been developed with the Police Cadets and the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. Cross-border cooperation with the Metropolitan Police was well developed, especially useful over pupils from London attending Dartford schools. Links had also been established with other Youth Engagement Officers across Kent.

 

The District Commander then addressed Members. He advised that the recent spike in burglaries in Dartford was currently subject to increased operational activity by Kent Police [Min. No. 24 refers], and that his review of Dartford’s Safer Streets policy had been re-invigorated since his last update to the Committee in July 2018.

 

The CSU Inspector outlined for Members the operational impact of ‘Safer Streets’, provided details of current activity, and confirmed that Kent Police had good intelligence and a strategy in place to react to any future spikes of anti-social behaviour in the Night-Time economy.

 

The District Commander advised that the recruitment of new Police constables was underway and numbers would increase on the ground in Dartford following training. He also praised the key nature of the combined Police and Council operation in Dartford CSU, which he believed was unique across Kent and the bench-mark for other authorities to reach. Inter-face with Bexley, Greenwich and Lewisham Councils were effective, and best practice was shared with Gravesham CSU and other partners within the CSP.

 

The CSM concluded the presentation by referring Members to page 38 of the 2018 SA [agenda p.86] which addressed the CSP priority of ‘Protecting Vulnerable People and Strengthening Communities’. Mental health issues, homelessness and vulnerable adults were key issues which demanded effective co-operation and co-ordination across all agencies in the Partnership both to help the individuals concerned –  the CSU mantra of ‘individuals make a difference’ and strengthened the Dartford and Gravesham communities as a consequence.

 

He confirmed that the next step was for the priorities from the 2018 SA to be subject to a public survey, prior to their incorporation into the Partnership’s 2019-2022 Community Safety Strategy, and 2019 Action Plan.

 

Members commended the 2018 Strategic Assessment (SA) document, the Council’s efforts to address fly tipping in particular, and Kent Police’s targeted operation to address the ‘spike’ in burglary in the Borough, and suggested that such ‘good news’ stories needed to receive greater publicity, to help inform and re-assure the public. Concern was however expressed over the perceived targeting of Asian families by burglars.

 

The District Commander advised Members that the current pro-active Police operation contained an element to address this. In response to a request from the Vice-Chairman, the District Commander undertook to strengthen contact with the Sikh Temple and community in Dartford.

 

In response to Member concern regarding road safety, particularly around Dartford’s schools, the EARS & CSU Manager advised the Committee that the Leader’s cross-party Working Group on Road Safety had targeted improved road safety around schools as a particular priority, including dialogue with the schools and local residents. The Council’s School Safety Van had issued 126 penalty charge notices in the period 1 January 2018 to 31 December 2018 for motorists [primarily parents] parking on zig-zag lines outside schools. TTROs (Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders) were used to address vehicles parked on footpaths around schools, penalising parking on yellow lines was more difficult to enforce effectively. Overall, the Council ran an effective enforcement operation to educate motorists, with particular success in the last 2 years following a re-structure of the Service, against a backdrop of increases in population, car use and pupil intake at Dartford schools.

 

The Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Community Development advised Members that the Leader’s Working Group was running a pilot scheme at 7 schools in Dartford to address road safety concerns. Poor parking by a minority of parents was a major factor for enforcement officers and changing the mind-set of parents in this respect was a key target. Measures being adopted were parental agreements between parents and schools, and the naming and shaming of offenders. However, children of offending parents could not be prevented from attending a school.

 

Head teachers had a key role to play in addressing road safety issues around their schools. Recruiting the support of local businesses (especially fast-food retailers) was another key element, encouraging more walking to school, and using different entrances to schools to help prevent traffic congestion and parking were other measures being encouraged. However, poor parental attitude remained the major obstacle to improved road safety around schools in Dartford. It was proposed that the Minutes of the Leader’s Working Group be passed to the Joint Transportation Board (JTB) for consideration in future.

 

A Member asked what impact Dartford’s connection to the greater South-East rail network (via Dartford and Ebbsfleet International stations) had on levels of crime in the Borough, and whether the British Transport Police (BTP) contributed to the crime statistics compiled annually by the CSP, and if not should such input be sought.

 

The CSM advised that the CSP’s crime statistics were compiled solely by Kent Police. He further advised that the BTP were not a statutory partner in the CSP but had been invited to attend CSU and CSP meetings in the past; to address the acknowledged problem of apprehending Metropolitan and other criminal’s resident elsewhere in Kent; who committed offences in Dartford and used the rail network to escape apprehension. BTP attendance at those meetings had been intermittent, but CCTV coverage at both stations was good and an effective aid to bringing successful prosecutions.

 

The Chairman and Members thanked the CSM for presenting the CSP’s 2018 Strategic Assessment, and all attending Officers and Kent Police guests for responding positively to Members’ concerns.

 

                        RESOLVED:

 

1.    That Members note the contents of the Dartford and Gravesham Community Safety Partnership (CSP) Draft Strategic Assessment 2018 document [Item A in the EXEMPT agenda papers];

 

2.    That Members note the priorities identified in the Draft Strategic Assessment 2018, subject to the amendments proposed by the CSP at their meeting on 17 January 2019;

 

3.    That Members note the CSP’s intention to submit a new Community Safety Strategy (2019-2022) document to address the priorities identified in the Draft Strategic Assessment 2018;

 

4.    That the Community Safety Strategy (2019-2022) be submitted to the next meeting of the Committee on 24 July 2019.

Supporting documents: