To consider the 2019 Strategic Assessment as presented to the CSP at their meeting on 16 January 2020 [Item A in the EXEMPT papers]
The covering report from the Community Safety Manager (CSM) asked Members to note the priorities identified in the SA 2019 document as adopted by the CSP at their meeting on 16 January 2020, and their incorporation into the Partnership’s Community Safety Plan (2019-2022) at that meeting.
In addition to the agenda papers Members received a PowerPoint presentation from the CSM which summarised the key elements of the comprehensive SA 2019 document, including details of comparative performance between the two Boroughs across a range of crime-types on an annual basis, and how those performances compared to that of the County as a whole.
The CSM informed Members that earlier changes to crime categories introduced by the Home Office had now been in force for some 24 months, and that an annual comparative performance exercise was now relevant and worthwhile. It was not yet possible to say that the data for the 12 month period under review (1 October 2018 to 30 September 2019) had identified definite trends in crime categories, but the data had indicated ‘spikes’ in certain crime-types. Further annual comparison exercises would be required to establish whether present ‘’spikes’ in certain crimes had developed into trends.
The presentation summarised the 2019 SA document under the following categories:
· Tacking Violent Crime including Domestic Abuse (DA)
· Tackling Persistent Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) and Environmental Crime
· Preventing Offending and Reducing Re-offending
· Protecting Vulnerable People and Strengthening Communities
Members were referred to comparative tables in the presentation which summarised Performance in each Borough and Kent as a whole, under 12 key crime-types on an annual basis. Changes in performance for each Borough and the County were indicated by green, red or blue arrows which represented an improvement, deterioration or no change in performance respectively, for each crime-type. The CSM and District Commander explained the data and context for Members information.
A SWOT [Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats] analysis was provided to Members based on the data that was recorded within the 2019 Strategic Assessment process.
The recommendations outlined within the Strategic Assessment 2019 document would be incorporated into the CSP’s Community Safety Strategy 2019-2021.
The CSM and the District Commander added the following comments of detail in relation to specific crime-types and areas of CSP operation in relation to Dartford:
Burglary Residential: This crime-trend had experienced a rise in reported incidents in Dartford in the period under review, following the re-categorisation of garages, sheds and outhouses as ‘dwellings’. Dartford was in a uniquely vulnerable position for cross-border crime from Essex and the Metropolis. Co-operation with Essex and the Met police forces had intensified to deal with the high negative impact of this crime on victims, as part of the Chief Constable’s Kent Control Strategy. A further Chief Constable initiative had been the setting up of North, West and East Kent detective teams of highly experienced officers who had made a series of key arrests.
Theft from Vehicles: A ‘spike’ in the theft of tools from vehicles had been identified in the 2019 SA but on the evidence of only 12 months data it was too early to label it as a crime trend. Preventative measures included advising the public to purchase ‘Smartwater’ driver packs to help deter criminals.
Domestic Abuse (DA): Combating the rise in incidents of DA was a Kent Police Force priority. Positive measures being taken included; better education of victims/potential victims, and increasing awareness of DA and the surrounding issues leading to the crime. Victim reluctance, and the subsequent withdrawal of complaints by victims when made, remained issues that made prosecution difficult, despite good ongoing work being undertaken by the Vulnerability Investment Team (VIT). Prosecutions were victim-focussed and based on evidential assessment despite victims withdrawing statements, and arrests for DA had risen. In cases were prosecutions were not secured, victims were sign-posted to available support services, including DA advisors working in police stations ‘out of hours’ to help victims on a 24 hour basis.
Shoplifting: Measures to combat this crime in Dartford under the D-TAC (Dartford Town against Crime) Scheme had been successful in the period under review. Initiatives by the new DTAC Intelligence Manager had had a significant impact, supported by the deployment of 2 dedicated PCs in the Town Centre, which had helped to achieve the highest monthly arrest rate on record.
Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB): Improved use of CPNs and CPWs had been costly, but effective.
The funding of the Dartford CSU operation by the Council was key to its stability. The provision of some PCC funding of the Council’s CCTV system had also been a significant success and provided real gains and tangible outcomes. Funding for VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) had also produced positive outcomes and enabled enhanced inter-action between Dartford and Gravesham in this field.
The Vulnerable and Organised Crime Fora had proved to be a good enabling structure for effective partnership working between the Dartford CSU, Kent Police, Social Services, Health and Housing providers, as well as the DWP. The Dartford Environmental Enforcement team had also been effective in the period under review and benefitted from attending the daily CSU briefing meetings.
Meetings to tackle cross-border and gang-related crime were held on a quarterly basis and attended by Dartford’s Community Safety Officer, together with representatives from Gravesham CSU, Kent and Met Police Forces and four adjacent London boroughs.
The lack of Ward-based crime-trend data and data regarding Bluewater were significant weakness in the present data gathering system which Kent Police were addressing.
MARAC (Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference) performance in Dartford was gauged by the number of repeat victims of DA who sought help. There had been an increase in the number of repeat victim in the period under review compared to 2018, but there had also been an increase in DA cases overall. It was seen as a positive that victims of DA continued to seek the support of MARAC services. If the present trend in repeat victims continued to rise, the MARAC measures for Dartford would be re-assessed.
Long Term Funding
Funding for VAWG was coming to end. Revenue for the Migration Fund was set to continue, to enable better understanding of the Borough’s growth rate and changing population. PCC funding had also been secured for 2021 to fund existing CSP priorities.
Further insights and positive outcomes were expected to be derived from the above projects, and cross-border co-operation continued to expand and produce significant results. The CSP as a 2 borough model continued to benefit from joint training and working.
In concluding his comments to Members, the CSM paid tribute to the contribution made by the CSO in helping to compile the comprehensive 2019 Strategic Assessment document, the identification of its key priorities, and the incorporation of its recommendations into the CSP’s Community Safety Plan (2019-2022).
In response to subsequent questions and expressions of concern from the Chairman and Members, the CSM, the CSO, the District Commander and the Community Police Inspector, confirmed the following points:
· The police were governed by postcodes in their reporting of crime, on occasion this could mean that an offence committed in e.g. Stone was categorised as being committed in Greenhithe;
· The police accepted the need to improve communications with residents regarding crime-trends, and appreciated the benefit of reporting ‘good news’ stories regarding crime prevention, solving and prosecutions; but were constrained by staff resources, only 1 press officer for both Dartford and Gravesham, and the added factor that it was difficult to get the media to take ‘good news’ stories;
· Increased use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media would be considered, especially to Councillors for re-tweeting to residents, also increased distribution via the Neighbourhood Watch schemes;
· The request for 2 new PCSOs for Ebbsfleet would be considered by the new Superintendent for North Division and the outcome advised to the Ward Councillors;
· Allocating further police resources to Dartford as whole, would be considered by Kent Police’s Tactical Operations team in the context of the recruitment of an addition 36 PCSOs and 147 police officers for Kent announced by the PCC in his 2020/21 Plan [Min. No 25 refers]. The immediate priority was the recruitment and training of additional police officers who were warranted and had powers of arrest. In the interim, the District Commander was able to make monthly bids for increased PCSO resources on an ad-hoc basis. Police patrols had been increased around the town centre between December 2019 and February 2020 in a concerted effort to combat crime. Co-operation with the Council’s CCTV team had helped to secure arrests;
· A joint initiative with British Transport Police and the Met and Essex forces had been undertaken by Kent police to combat crime at Dartford railway station and in the town centre by criminals commuting into the Borough;
· The Council’s decision to retain an in-house CCTV operation had paid significant dividends in terms of a high quality operation, with highly trained staff attuned to Dartford’s needs, with the skills to interpret and anticipate criminal behaviour, which allowed council and police resources to be deployed to maximum effect. The need for further CCTV installation across the Borough was not anticipated at this time;
· Funding for DA projects was coming to the end of a 3 year cycle. Gravesham had benefited from special funding for DA not available to Dartford, but Dartford benefited from joint DA working practices between the two boroughs, including an annual publicity campaign aimed at educating the public to the dangers of DA. Members proposed that a future campaign be undertaken in Dartford schools to educate children to the warning signs of DA and how to seek help;
· The increase in deliberate fires in the Borough in the period under review had been in the Dartford Heath area. Shop owners in the area were being educated over the dangers of selling matches to children and younger adolescents. Perpetrators had been identified and dealt with;
· The spate of thefts of catalytic converters from motor vehicles in the period under review had occurred primarily in Bluewater, but also in the town centre. The offence could be committed in a matter of minutes, making offenders difficult to recognise and prosecute. CID reviewed this crime on a daily basis to identify patterns and trends, identify offenders and make arrests, and this crime type was now significantly reduced.
In concluding the debate, the Chairman asked that the Committee’s concerns regarding the need for increased communication between Kent Police and residents be raised with the PCC [given the funding implications], noted the positive aspect of increased reporting of DA and increased measures proposed to further educate the public to the dangers of DA including a programme for schools, and the thanked the CSM and the CSO for producing an excellent 2019 Strategic Assessment document.
1. That Members note the contents of the Dartford and Gravesham Community Safety Partnership (CSP’s) Strategic Assessment 2019 document, presented as Item A in the EXEMPT agenda papers;
2. That Members note the priorities identified in the Strategic Assessment (SA) 2019 document agreed by the CSP at their meeting on 16 January 2020;
3. That Members note the CSP’s decision to adopt the recommendations contained within SA 2019 into the CSP’s Community Safety Plan (2019-2022).