High visibility “policing”

ABOUT THESE GUIDES This is one in a series of guides designed to share ideas for tackling vandalism and other forms of criminal damage. They are based, as far as possible, on examples we have found from around the UK and further afield. Although in most cases these have not been rigorously evaluated, they are reported to have been successful in tackling this sort of crime. This guide covers high visibility policing – taking a wide definition of the term policing. Other guides already produced in this series cover: • tackling vandalism and other criminal damage; • tools and powers for tackling criminal damage; • environmental approaches ; and • tackling youth vandalism. Further guides are in preparation including on arson, criminal damage to vehicles and analysing criminal damage data. If there are any other subjects you would like covered, or if you have any comments on these guides please send them to us via your regional Government Office or the Welsh Assembly Government. WHAT IS VANDALISM / CRIMINAL DAMAGE? Criminal damage refers to crimes where any person without lawful excuse intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages any property belonging to anotheri. Activities resulting in nonpermanent damage (i.e. that can be rectified, cleaned off or removed at no cost) such as letting down of car tyres should not be classed as criminal damage, nor should accidental damage. Any damage around a point of entry to a house or vehicle should be treated as attempted burglary / vehicle crime rather than criminal damage if, on the balance of probabilities, one of those crimes is the more likely offence than criminal damageii. Vandalism is the term used in the British Crime Survey. Whilst the definition has been kept as close as possible to that of criminal damage, it only covers crimes against households and household property, including cars. POLICING High visibility policing – by police officers, police community support officers, neighbourhood or street wardens, or others – can act as an effective deterrent to potential vandals, as well as being a reassurance to the public. It is, however, resource intensive so, to be most cost-effective, needs to be welltargeted at the main hot-spots and times. Taking an evidenceled, problem-oriented approach backed up by an effective performance management system is vital. To maximise the evidence-base, it is important that people are encouraged to report incidents of vandalism in their local area. However, reporting levels for vandalism are low so maintaining good relations with the local community can help to augment the evidence-base and identify what issues are causing local people the greatest concern. The North Wales Police encourage open communication and two-way dialogue between senior officers and delivery staff to gauge each others concerns and opinions. In addition, senior officers frequently visit officers on the beat and assess how effectively resources are being directed in the fight against crime. This strategy also enables the police to ensure that police community support officers and neighbourhood wardens are well tasked. POLICE In addition to powers of arrest, the Police have recourse to other penalties that are especially usefully in the fight against criminal damage. These include: • Fixed Penalty Notices of £50 for minor graffiti and fly posting to individuals aged 10 years and over • Penalty Notices for Disorder of £80 to those aged 16 years and over for destroying or damaging property that is valued at under £500. A more comprehensive and detailed list of the penalties and powers in relation to vandalism can be found in the accompanying guide ‘Tools and powers for tackling criminal damage’: In March 2005, as part of Northumbria Police’s ‘Operation Odin’ – a mixture of hard-hitting enforcement and education campaigns – 48 arrests were made, 104 fixed penalty notices issued, and 76 letters were delivered to the parents of young people stopped by the police. In a separate operation the police and licensing officers visited a number of pubs in the area, and a pub with underage drinkers was closed. This strict approach led to a decrease in alcohol related disorder, which, in turn, has led to a reduction in vandalism in Gateshead. Moreover, relationships with local residents have improved.

Page 1 of 4

In Bexley, London, about £100,000 of criminal damage was caused to Welling School over 2 years. All the partners involved agreed to the police team having an office in the school as the long-term solution. The police at the school also set up activities, such as simulation police training, and a young persons’ film-making club, which gives young people the chance to make films tackling real issues affecting their lives and communities. Moreover, the school hosts regular meetings with local residents to ensure that concerns can be raised and addressed in an open manner. Vandalism and antisocial behaviour has virtually been eradicated in the school, and complaints from local residents about people being on school grounds outside school hours have stopped. Staff and pupil morale has increased. With their expertise in crime reduction, the police are also well placed to help address the underlying causes of criminal behaviour. Safer Schools Partnership (SSP) Officers can help deliver law and order education as part of the citizenship curriculum, whilst police in areas without SSPs can engage in local schools and youth inclusion projects by giving talks or holding workshops. Such initiatives also assist in developing stronger relations between the police and the local community, particularly young people. Operation Mullion: Mayfield School in Portsmouth suffered from serious anti-social behaviour and was considered a magnet for criminal activity. In the year before the initiative started, the police spent approximately £18,000 investigating crimes at the school, whilst the school itself spent over £20,000 in repairs. Operation Mullion set out a series of long and short term interventions to give students responsibility for introducing crime reduction strategies, and improving partnerships between public agencies. After 12 months the project achieved reductions of 42% in police attendance; 100% in criminal damage, mobile phone thefts, and vehicle crime; approximately £9,225.00 in police investigation costs; and 42% in student exclusions. In Kent, the Safer Schools Partnership was set up in 1998. The police monitor security in and around schools, and have encouraged students to identify, design and lead the development of approaches to deal with crime and safety issues. Moreover, training and support is given to schools that want to develop integrated peer-led approaches to deal with bullying, vandalism, racism, and drugs. Whilst reducing crime and nuisance in and around schools, this approach also reduced truancy and school exclusions; improved the perceptions of young people in the local community; and helped prepare them to engage in decision-making processes. Between 1998 and 2000, incidents of vandalism in and around schools in Kent decreased by 63%.

POLICE COMMUNITY SUPPORT OFFICERS Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) provide a visible and uniformed presence in the community, directly helping the police to tackle criminal behaviour, and freeing up police officers from some of the time spent on routine tasks. Moreover, they provide a valuable service in reassuring the local community. In relation to vandalism, PCSOs can be particularly useful in: • attending incidents of low-level disorder and antisocial behaviour; • dealing with community issues such as littering and dog fouling; • reporting and removing abandoned vehicles; • gathering evidence through observation; • speaking to young people who might be drunk and causing problems, confiscating alcohol and tobacco, if necessary; and • assisting the police with recording names and addresses or door-to-door enquiries. Some PCSOs – depending on their role – are given police powers. Those most relevant to vandalism include issuing fixed penalty notices, and the ability to detain an individual for up to 30 minutes – enabling them to obtain back-up from a police officer. In Gateshead, there was a lack of communication between the residents of Nest Estate and the local agencies, as well as a lack of community confidence. A multi-agency response from all agencies was undertaken, including a high level presence from police community support officers, clean up operations and housing inspections. A large amount of information regarding residents’ concerns was gathered, and enforcement action was undertaken against a number of households on the estate. Moreover, relationships have been improved with local residents and the front line services, including the police, PCSOs and the housing company. NEIGHBOURHOOD / STREET WARDENS Neighbourhood or street wardens provide a highly visible, uniformed, semi-official presence in residential and public areas, town centres and high-crime areas. Their overall purpose is to improve quality of life and contribute to the regeneration of an area. Many schemes have systems that enable wardens to report instances of vandalism and graffiti to the relevant authorities. Some neighbourhood wardens themselves are responsible for cleaning up minor incidents of vandalism – for example, over 2 days the Wyre Forest

Page 2 of 4

Community Housing Scheme’s Wardens dealt with 216 incidents. A national evaluation of the Neighbourhood Wardens Scheme found that there has been a 28% decline in the overall rate of crime in warden areas, compared with a 5% increase in the comparator areas (residents’ survey evidence). This is significant because residents in warden areas are often at a higher risk of becoming a victim of crime than the national average. The evaluation identified four key elements of successful and sustainable neighbourhood warden schemes: • Employing people with good interpersonal skills; • Tailoring approaches to local problems – many schemes organise clean up campaigns with young people and visit schools, in addition to providing information and assistance to groups in the community that are particularly vulnerable; • Strong and effective partnerships; • Good scheme management. Since 2001, neighbourhood wardens in Gorton, Manchester, have run the ‘On the Streets’ Project, which focuses on breaking down barriers between young people and the wider community. It provides a forum to engage young people who have been perceived as causing a nuisance, enabling them to discuss their problems and at the same time instilling a sense of community responsibility. Leisure activities are provided as a reward for positive interactions in the community, such as ‘clean up’ campaigns and improving gardens. In addition, education is provided on various issues important to young people including sexual health, alcohol / drugs awareness and bullying. Organisers of community events increasingly invite along young people from the project, showing that greater community understanding is being developed. Joined-up approaches, which have the support of the public, tend to more effective crime fighting than agencies working alone. Therefore, if groups concerned with tackling vandalism – and promoting safer communities more generally – liaise effectively with each other they can share expertise and understanding, and co-ordinate their activities. Neighbourhood and street wardens, and police community support officers, in particular, are well placed to act as a valuable link between the police and local residents.

In Birmingham, the city centre warden team is working with Connexions to help prevent young people committing crimes over the school holidays. A ‘Big Brother’ service was set up to encourage young people and their parents to talk about their perceptions of the city, and how they could be made to feel more part of it. Moreover, youth outreach workers have offered guidance and support from a series of mobile units around the city. Wardens used vouchers and tickets to encourage young people to begin talking to them about their views and the issues they faced. One positive consequence was that the perception of wardens changed from being law enforcers, to a valuable and approachable source of community information and support. NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH The police and the local community need to work together to tackle criminal damage. Neighbourhood Watch is a partnership that enables local people to help make their communities safer by liaising with the police and other local agencies. It brings people together to protect themselves and their properties, to reduce the fear of crime and improve their local environment. The existence of a Neighbourhood Watch scheme can deter certain criminal behaviours. If a crime is committed it is often best to observe calmly and discreetly, to provide the best chance of registering and reporting what is seen quickly and accurately. The partnership aspect of Neighbourhood Watch schemes is an important means of making police and local authorities aware of residents’ concerns. Frequent communication between partners is essential to motivate members and keep schemes active. 2005 ‘Taking A Stand Award’ winners • Carol Sutton, Oldbury, organised a Neighbourhood Watch scheme that identified the ten youths that were at the centre of a gang that terrorising her estate. Two of them were given ASBOs, and three others went to prison. Her £1,000 award money provided the local Neighbourhood Watch scheme with radio links. Bob Stradling, Southmead Estate, Bristol, helped the police shut down a crack house associated with large amounts of graffiti and smashed glass. He organised his neighbours to make statements to the police, and negotiated with BT to stop incoming calls to a public telephone box that was being used for drug drop-offs. He ploughed his award back into Neighbourhood Watch.

Page 3 of 4

In Flintshire, Neighbourhood Watch has been active in engaging all generations in the fight against crime, the fear of crime and anti-social behaviour. Since 2004, Neighbourhood Watch and the local police have planned and coordinated a series of “Community Safety Surgeries” to gauge the concerns of residents. They have reactivated interest in Neighbourhood Watch, which has led to the development of a substantial number of new schemes, as well as increasing the activity of existing ones. These surgeries also highlighted that young people had their own safety concerns, which resulted in them being involved in a number of campaigns about crime, safety and the local environment. Activities such as these, which involve the participation of a number of different groups, help to restore faith in the community, and encourage people to take action to improve their locality. REPORTING Vandalism and graffiti can reduce the quality of life in a community if not dealt with quickly and effectively. If it remains unaddressed it can encourage further incidents of vandalism, and further increase fear of crime. Moreover, a large number of young people interviewed claim that, with few crimes reportediii, they were not scared of being caught – therefore it is important that people are encouraged to report crimes of vandalism so that action can be taken against the perpetrators. To increase the reporting rate: • A single contact number in the local authority / police, which can be easily identified, makes reporting of less serious crimes much easier. • Local agencies should make it clear that this crime is worth reporting. • Local agencies should follow up queries quickly and efficiently and, if possible, inform the person who reported the incident that action is being taken. This will lead to increased confidence in the way police and other agencies respond to reports of criminal damage.

In Bloomsbury, an internet-based local community network for reporting, tracking, and combating nuisance behaviour has been developed by the chair of the resident’s association, the police, and Camden Council. ‘CommunityAlert Bloomsbury’ allows a local person to report and get local action on persistent (non-emergency) anti-social behaviour. Reporting is anonymous, and reports are passed on by the CommunityAlert Coordinator to the local police – thereby allowing people to feel that they are not wasting police time. Moreover, the system provides practical information and on-line resources on how to approach and solve local crime and quality-of-life concerns; and links the community with legal and other services which are able to assist them. The result has been a decline in anti-social behaviour, and the system is being expanded to cover other areas of Camden. NEED MORE HELP? Further information and assistance on tackling criminal damage is also available via your regional Government Office / Welsh Assembly Government or from: i) ii) Crime Reduction website (www.crimereduction.gov.uk) Together Academies which bring together practitioners to provide advice and training on specific issues to transform the way that they tackle anti-social behaviour.

iii) ASB Action Days when an expert practitioner will meet with ASB teams and their partners to help find solutions to intractable problems, refocus action to get results, encourage use of the full range of new anti-social behaviour powers or remove blockages that are preventing progress. iv) ASB Action Line (0870 220 2000) and website (www.together.gov.uk) which provide information, solutions and best practice to help practitioners tackle anti-social behaviour. v) Overseas websites such as the International Centre for the Prevention of Crime (http://www.crimeprevention-intl.org/index.php); the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing (www.popcenter.org); and the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (www.ncjrs.gov).

Criminal Damage Act 1971 Section 1 Home Office Counting Rules for Recorded Crime iii The BCS estimates that less than a third are reported to the police
i ii

Page 4 of 4