This week I want to discuss my views on the second limb of the blueprint; Geared to Prevent harm. To help me I want to step back to 1829 and look at Peel’s Principles set for the then new Metropolitan Police. There are nine principles but I will just use three with a little highlighting.
1.To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
3.To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
9.To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.
At times policing has drifted away from some parts of the principles. In the 2000’s there was a very big focus upon detection of crime as a police measure. We also went through a very strong phase of looking at ourselves purely as a service designed to offer a high quality response to the calls the public make on us. We also saw big expansions in policing budgets that perhaps reinforced an admirably confident approach to taking things on ourselves. Austerity is seeing the end of this phase of policing and whilst I won’t pretend reductions in budgets do not make things very hard I refuse to accept the world of policing will just get worse. In fact I think the blueprint can pull us back to Peel.
Firstly, we are getting much sharper on how we cut crime and disorder. We used to come at this with a very detection and hotspot focus. We have seen Evidence Based Policing drive a much stronger understanding of what works. That thinking is helping us consider the treatments we need to apply to offenders, victims and locations. As traditional acquisitive crime falls the same treatment of patrolling or traditional policing solutions do not always work. How much does hotspot policing offer for reducing violent crime? As we know this is much more than a night-time economy issue and means we need to use different approaches to treat causes of behaviour as we can’t just apply patrol to rub it out.
This leads to point 2. Some of the levers for reducing crime are only possible to use with a broader partnership. At the time Peel referred to this as “the public” as frankly there were few other public services. Today the willing cooperation we need has to be partners as well as the public. We are now amassing an evidence base that is telling us who is likely to commit crime, where they are likely to come from and critically what things we can do to address their offending risk. Really effective data mining and analytics could precisely identify the high demand and high vulnerability people for all agencies in a place. The Troubled Families Programme has provided one way of looking at this in each local area. So has the IOM work. The new violence partnership we begin this month is stimulating health solutions to violence issues. There is still a vast amount of fragmentation on the interventions for young people. The challenge is now to move away from police, local authority, health, probation interventions to asking the question: “What treatment do we need to apply to reduce offending and vulnerability in this place?” The blueprint requires a shift to do this which I think the IOM teams have started but there is more to follow to deliver really integrated public service.
The demise of neighbourhood policing has been trumpeted by many papers in response to the blueprint. It could not be less so, but it is time for a change regardless of the pressures of austerity.
Our current model places a team in an area with, I think, limited direction on their mission and asks them to go and do good. As they do this they are pretty intensively tasked from inside and outside the force, sometimes inappropriately. Public engagement and priorities vary, sometimes according to the ethos of the team leader. There has been some brilliant work but I think it can be much more effective.
We will be looking to the future for probably a smaller dedicated number of staff on dedicated fixed neighbourhoods. Chief Superintendent Barnett is looking at neighbourhood policing across the force and identifying different types of neighbourhoods (city centres, high demand, self sustaining etc..). This is helping us understand from looking at the teams the types of activities we are doing in neighbourhoods and how we may want to work in the future.
We will probably create some dedicated capability at LPU level to deliver more effective public engagement of the type discussed in the last blog. This is a very specialist role. We then see new mission focused teams working on problems across our local authority area that we would like to fully integrate with local authority, health and other partners. This would create multi agency teams working on problems rather than separate teams trying to work in partnership on small and often different geography. Some of this thinking is already starting in Solihull.
This is going to be a big organisational and cultural shift for us requiring much more collaborative ways of working and a greater focus on “why” and not just “what” is happening.