Environmental Clean Up Days

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 gives a broad overview of the problem and how it can be tackled. Other guides already produced in this series cover: • the available powers and how they can be used; • environmental approaches; • tackling youth offenders; • high visibility “policing”; and • tackling arson Further guides are in preparation including on criminal damage to vehicles and analysing criminal damage data. These guides are intended to be living documents that can be up-dated as necessary so if you have any comments on these guides or if there are any other subjects you would like covered, please send your suggestions 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. WHAT IS A ‘CLEAN-UP DAY’? Everyone should be free to live and work in clean and well kept spaces that are both safe and attractive. Clean up days and clean up projects challenge local people and agencies to tackle issues of local environmental concern, such as graffiti, abandoned vehicles, other damage and flytipping. There are two main types of clean up day. The first involves a resident or a group of residents cleaning up their area on an ad hoc basis. The Middlewich Clean Team, a voluntary residents group in Cheshire, started as a group of six individuals who wanted to develop and promote a culture of pride in the community. It now has over 90 active members that meet regularly to help keep their town clean. Members are informed of the date and location of upcoming cleanup days via the website. In 2003 the Team received £1000 in the ‘Taking A Stand’ awards, which they invested in educating the local school children about the importance of keeping their town clean. For more information visit www.middlewich-cleanteam.co.uk. The second, which has more sustained and widespread benefits, is a coordinated multi-agency approach whereby staff from a number of different local agencies ‘patrol’ an area for a day and use their joint powers to tackle all the ‘clean up’ issues they come across. Crucial to their success are adequate advance planning and the support and involvement of the public, the local media and a variety of local agencies. They are especially effective if held at regular intervals. WHY CAN CLEAN UP DAYS BE USEFUL? Vandalism and other damage to the local environment can create negative perceptions of an area, starting a spiral of decline that can undermine the community. This is true of current and potential residents and also commercial interests, for whom the quality of the local area will affect the level of financial and personal investment they decide to contribute. Efforts to engage the public, either by getting them directly involved in the cleaning efforts, or even just by publishing the good work that agencies are doing in their area, can help to build community cohesion and confidence, together with a self reliance to ensure that their public spaces remain clean. Clean up days can:
• •

Counter community feelings of helplessness; Show residents that someone cares;

Page 1 of 4

• •

Demonstrate the value to the public of reporting damage; Prove that local issues are dealt with

include the commercial sector, the public, the local press and youth groups. In addition, members of the wider ‘policing family’, such as neighbourhood wardens and Community Support Officers should be engaged as much as possible. The role of neighbourhood wardens is increasingly focussed on the ‘liveability agenda’, with approximately 60% of their duties dealing with enviro-crimes. As such, it is important to utilise their expertise and knowledge. Wardens can even be provided with additional promotional material such as videos, posters, leaflets, and factsheets, which could be disseminated amongst the community in which they are already pro-active. 2) Engage the public Clean Up days have more benefit if the are seen by the community to tackle what matters to them rather than to the agencies involved. Various methods can be used to gauge public priorities. The most common are public meetings and surveys in which individuals can prioritise the locations and vandalism types (e.g. graffiti, abandoned vehicles, broken windows) that are of greatest concern to them. This information is used to establish the main focus of the clean up day. In February 2005 local agencies in Manchester came together to participate in the 100 days campaign to clean their city. The focus was on the ways in which residents interact with their families, neighbours, schools and physical environment. Key to the success of the campaign was the use of communication and publicity to demonstrate to the public that action was being taken. The campaign included a local ASB roadshow that toured the city, culminating with a 'Question Time' event at the Town Hall. A city-wide door drop also let residents know about where they could get help and advice on a range of anti-social behaviour and vandalism issues.

MULTI-AGENCY OPERATIONS Damage to the local environment affects a range of statutory organisations and commercial interests, and as such the most effective way of tackling it is by adopting a joined-up multiagency approach. Clean up groups usually consist of officers from the police, fire service, local authority, and DVLA, although this may vary depending on local concerns and priorities. Importantly, because these agencies are physically together as they work, they can combine their delegated and legislative powers and take action that has immediate and visible effects. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 places a statutory duty on key local partners to work together to undertake community safety audits of their area and to develop strategies to address local issues. Initially, some partners may not fully understand their role in tackling environmental vandalism, and may be reluctant to participate in a clean up day. Often all that is needed is for the partner to be invited to observe a clean up day in action, and so see the benefits that they can have. In Luton and Bedfordshire, regular multi-agency Environmental Action Days are held to target areas that experience a number of environmental crimes, including abandoned vehicles, graffiti, fly-tipping, fly-posting and arson. A combined force of officers from the police, FRS, the council, the DVLA and other agencies work together and join their delegated and legislative powers to tackle any issue that directly affects the local street scene. Importantly the patrols are done on foot, so that residents can see that action is being taken. Moreover, the clean up is accompanied by education for residents, as well as enforcement of environmental regulations. In 2004/05 the 15 EAD’s that were held resulted in a significant reduction for a whole range of crimes and anti-social behaviour, particularly arson related incidents, which fell by 55%. PLANNING AND PREPARATION 1) Identify and engage key partners The key partners need to work together to plan the operation by sharing information on their areas of expertise, the powers that they can bring to bear, and roles and responsibilities. Alongside the key agencies (police, fire service, local authority and others), other local groups should be kept informed of developments, as they may want to get involved. These

3) Establish a route Using the data from the public on the priority locations the partners need to agree on the route that will be covered over the period of the clean up day. The operation should be conducted on foot, to ensure the good work that the officers are doing is highly visible to the public, so the area must be of a manageable size. This is also important because officers need to be sure that they can deal with all the issues that they come across within the area in one day.

Page 2 of 4

4) Agree the actions that will be taken to tackle different types of enviro-crime Whilst it is useful to have a varied selection of staff on each patrol, with different areas of expertise and powers, this is not always possible – especially if there are different patrols covering different areas. As such, all the partners should understand the correct procedures for tackling the various forms of environmental vandalism they come across, and the powers that they can use to do so. The group may be able to do it on the spot, or they may have to contact an officer in another team – either way, the problem should be resolved on the day. 5) Clean! It is important that the public can see this happening, so officers may decide to wear bright jackets that are easily noticeable. In addition, cameras will enable officers to take ‘before and after’ pictures of some of the problems they have faced. In all cases make sure that the local press is around to promote the good work that is taking place! Together with the clean up, officers may consider distributing material to the public along the route covered giving information about what is taking place, and why, together with advice on what individual people can do to help ensure it stays that way. REVIEW AND FOLLOW UP Following the clean up day the officers and the public should be invited to offer their views on what went well, and where improvements could me made – the results of the exercise should go on to form a new baseline for the team to improve on. It is also important to reassure the public that work is continuing to combat environmental vandalism after the event. This may include letting the public know the impact of the clean up day on the levels of vandalism and anti-social behaviour in their area. Some local areas have even held dedicated ‘Envirocrime Prosecution Days’ shortly after the clean up operation, when magistrates hear all the prosecutions initiated during the blitz period. TOOLS AND POWERS It is important that local agencies make the most of the powers available to them to tackle vandalism in their local area. Below are some of the powers that are most likely to be used on a clean up day. More comprehensive information on the tools and powers to combat criminal damage can be found in the accompanying guide ‘Tools and Powers’.

1) Abandoned vehicles: Abandoning a vehicle on any land in the open air or any other land forming part of a highway is a criminal offence under Section 2 of the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978. It is punishable by a maximum fine of 2,500 and/or three months in prison. From April 2006, local authority authorised officers can issue Fixed Penalty Notices of £200 for abandoned vehicles under Section 10 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. Section 99 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 authorises the police to remove vehicles that are illegally, dangerously or obstructively parked or abandoned or broken down, whether or not they have been stolen. Since October 2005, local authorities in England have had the power to remove abandoned vehicles immediately and without notice. In Wales, local authorities have the power to remove vehicles which have no value after 24 hours. Where an abandoned vehicle has some value, the owner must be given seven days notice of the local authority’s intention to dispose of it. If an abandoned vehicle is fit only for destruction, a local authority in England is no longer obliged to wait until a valid excise licence expires before destroying it. In Wales, a local authority must wait at least 7 days before destroying the vehicle, unless it has a valid excise licence in which case it must be held until 14 days after the expiry of the licence. In both England and Wales, where an abandoned vehicle does not have a registration plate or a valid excise licence, the local authority may destroy it immediately. Vehicles parked illegally, obstructively or dangerously and broken down vehicles can be removed immediately by the police if they are on a road 2) Graffiti: Local authority authorised officers, parish councils, Police Community Safety Officers (PCSOs) and persons accredited under the Police Reform Act 2002 can issue a fixed penalty notice of £75 (or locally-set level) for minor graffiti. In addition, the Police (but not accredited persons) may issue a Penalty Notice for Disorder for destroying or damaging property (including graffiti) under £500 of value to persons aged 16 and over.

Page 3 of 4

Section 48-52 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, as amended by section 31 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, gives local authorities the power to serve defacement removal notices on certain bodies responsible for the surface where graffiti or fly posting has appeared. These bodies include the owners of street furniture (bus shelters, street signs, phone boxes etc), statutory undertakers (such as Network Rail) and educational establishments. The notice gives a minimum of 28 days for the removal of the graffiti. If after that time it has not been removed the local authority can remove it and can recover its costs. 3) Fly-tipping and litter Alongside abandoned vehicles and graffiti, the most common problems practitioners are likely to encounter on a clean up day are fly-tipping and litter. Whilst these are not classified as criminal damage, dealing with them will help improve the public spaces and engender a sense of respect in the local area. Information on the relevant tools and powers can be found on the Together website (see below). In Milton Keynes the police, fire service, DVLA, local authority and parishes got together to run the week long ‘Operation Spring Clean’, which was focuses on one of the most socially deprive and poor estates. Staff talked to the residents about the consequences of enviro-crimes and the fire service visited schools to carry out fire demonstrations. A poster competition was run for 5-12 year olds, and the children were asked to design posters to prevent graffiti and littering, with the winning entries exhibited in the library. Over 100 square metres of graffiti, 30 tonnes of rubbish/fly tipping and 12 abandoned vehicles were removed in one week. Furthermore, the protective anti-graffiti coating that was applied to some of the buildings have had subsequent graffiti easily removed from them, and taggers have ceased to target them.

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) Crime Reduction website (www.crimereduction.gov.uk). In addition to general criminal damage information, an arson minisite is available on the website 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.

ii)

iii) 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. iv) 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). v) Arson Control Forum which is a Government-led national body seeking to reduce arson-related casualties and damage (www.communities.gov.uk).

i ii

Criminal Damage Act 1971 Section 1 Home Office Counting Rules for Recorded Crime

Page 4 of 4