Examination of Witness (Questions 500-512)|
WEDNESDAY 5 DECEMBER 2001
500. I just want to ask you about your practice
in the West Midlands because you call it a custodian approach
and in Cheshire we call it sector policing. It is all very well
in principle to have officers who are linked to geographical areas
but, as you indicated in your response to Miss McIntosh, those
officers get called away for other duties. What mechanism do you
have in the West Midlands for communication, ie if a local councillor,
chair of a tenants' group or whatever urgently needs to have a
conversation with one of your district officers, how does it work?
(Mr Baggott) There are two levels to it. We have identified
the most vulnerable and significant neighbourhoods that are in
desperate need of regeneration because we firmly believe that
policing in terms of public confidence is very much the foundation
of any regeneration. I worked very closely for a number of years
with Urban Programme and Estate Action, trying to join up those
schemes with the policing initiatives, and where Estate Action
worked was where there was significant policing that dealt with
the public confidence issue and the criminality at the same time
as the effort went into rebuilding the bricks and mortar and doing
the social development. Policing has to be there. I am realistic,
I have X number of resources and a wide degree of demand, but
what we have done by overlaying crime density, deprivation data,
and even where persistent offenders live, we have identified the
long-term hot spots where people are most vulnerable and we have
made a strategic decision that we will police those in a way where
the officers who police those are not allowed to do other duties.
There are some principles laid down and they only work in those
particular areas. The relationship building is constant. They
are not there for a day and then away for a week, they are there
all the time, and I hold them very strongly accountable for delivery
against targets and delivery in terms of what they are doing with
public confidence. We are evaluating that externally. Pragmatically
I cannot always guarantee that the police officer that owns a
micro-beat, as we call them, will be there all the time, but what
I can do is move a step towards that by insisting on some individual
ownership. What we do not have in the West Midlands for what I
believe are cultural reasons is we do not have community officers
on the left hand and response officers on the right hand, I have
police officers who are problem solvers and they will fulfil the
whole range of duties because, quite frankly, I do not want cops
in cars, who just drive cars, I want police officers who actually
understand communities and I am not sure you necessarily do that
by creating two levels of police officer, the community bobby
and the response officer, but that is a personal thing.
501. Do you use CCTV?
(Mr Baggott) Sorry?
502. Do you used closed circuit television?
(Mr Baggott) Yes, we do have a wide variety of closed
circuit television in shopping centres and in streets.
503. What about on the estates?
(Mr Baggott) Yes, very much so.
504. Is this mobile, portable CCTV?
(Mr Baggott) We have both. We have mobile CCTV, which
in some areas has been paid for by local partnerships, as well
as static CCTV.
505. What about the results of the programme
or the filming on CCTV, how do you use that?
(Mr Baggott) There are obviously very clear rules
laid down in terms of the accountability of the tapes which are
agreed under national guidelines. I think the issue for me about
CCTV is it is just one part of an approach to the security of
an area. I am nervous when people say that CCTV is an answer,
it is not, it is one part of the overall well-being of the area
and where it is applied well it has a good effect. It does need
to have still local ownership by local partnerships of the problems,
it cannot stand alone from what happens beyond the CCTV itself.
506. Can I take you back to this custodian approach.
I am rather worried that police officers are being dragged into
all sorts of things that a good local authority ought to do and
probably the police officer is being paid rather more than people
in the local authority. I have the example of a sergeant in Reddish
who does a brilliant job but it is more in terms of managing the
community, convincing them that issues are being dealt with, seeing
that the issues are being dealt with. I am suspicious that really
the crime level has not actually reduced because you have been
distracted by all these community worries.
(Mr Baggott) There are two aspects to that. One is
I would agree with you, Chairman, the police officer's job is
to tackle criminality and to reassure the public, and they go
hand in hand. The quality of our dialogue with the public has
to be about identifying their problems that we can resolve and
if those problems rightly lay elsewhere then it is right that
we become a conduit to moving that problem to where it rightly
belongs, I would agree with that. Could you just repeat the other
part of your question, please?
507. It is this question of is it really an
expensive way of doing what the local authorities should be doing?
(Mr Baggott) I do not think it is, because what we
are finding is that a significant amount of information is coming
from local residents, just by building a relationship, this is
about tackling criminality. It may sound a strange example but
I have a meeting every month with a variety of community representatives
who challenge me, which I think is very healthy, and a shopkeeper
said to me "If you want to deal with the problems of Hansworth
you have got to come into the local hairdresser's shop".
I thought that was a strange thing to say but she said "That
is where the information is about the woman who has not gone out
because she has been in fear for three years, that is where the
information is about dealing drugs on the corner and the reason
why we do not tell you is because we do not know you. If we could
know you better we would tell you these issues and you would deal
with them better".
508. So you are sending police officers to have
their hair cut there.
(Mr Baggott) Certainly in my case anyway.
Miss McIntosh: Very nicely done too.
509. There was a stage in my constituency when
most of the policemen lived in police houses around the constituency
and they got their information that way. Do you think the losing
of the police houses and policemen moving away to the more leafy
suburbs has added to the problem?
(Mr Baggott) I am not sure it is about where police
officers live. I think it is a strategic decision to link police
officers to known areas and to move as quickly as you can towards
that, understanding all the constraints that there are upon that.
Where I think that relationship is proving very, very important
for us is particularly in inner city areas, which you might have
predicted over the summer might have had some degree of tension
and disorder. I have got many examples where the local police
officers have brokered and stopped tension developing between
different sections of the community. One police officer in one
night visited ten families from different parts of the community
and explained to them the consequences if they went on the street
the next day. You cannot measure that in terms of ultimate impact
in terms of public disorder. I do believe there is a role for
police officers almost being honest brokers between different
sections of the community, and I would wish to encourage that.
510. I want to ask you about the way we deal
with anti-social behaviour problems. There is a feeling at the
moment that they just get moved around now that we are using leases
and evictions as a way of dealing with it. What is your take on
(Mr Baggott) I think there is a danger of that. If
people are going to be moved they have to be moved into a regime,
if you like, that is both supportive but also one that lays down
some rules very firmly. I would not like to see people just evicted
under a tenancy agreement and moved somewhere else where the problems
will recreate themselves. One of the areas where this is particularly
important is not necessarily in terms of moving people under tenancy
agreements but people coming out of prison, for example. Seventy-four
per cent of males coming out of prison will reoffend within a
year. If you put them back into old networks in deprived neighbourhoods
the impact of that is really significant. The issue for Strategic
Partnerships is once again about joining these things up, because
if you know when someone is coming out of prison, if they can
be met on the day they come out by the police officer who owns
or looks after the estate, if they get a package delivered by
the Strategic Partnership that is about employment opportunity,
who the GP is, who the health provision is in terms of drug treatment,
in a really joined up way, the propensity to reoffend within two
weeks is significantly gone. Much of this is about whether you
can join up different parts of the business on behalf of an individual
which in turn is being done on behalf of the area where that individual
511. Do you have different tools to deal with
anti-social behaviour problems? I think ASBOs are somewhere in
the middle, but where do you rate them and what are the other
tools that you have?
(Mr Baggott) As I say, they are part of the range
of options that you have. The important thing is to understand
what is going on in the family and what sort of intervention is
taking place. For example, with a young person it may be the approach
is through behaviour support through the Primary Care Trust, that
may be the best way. It may be support for the mother through
some family education work. It may be a tenancy agreement. It
may lend itself to an Anti-Social Behaviour Order. It may be the
Youth Offending Team. What is lacking at the moment in many of
these neighbourhoods is a mapping exercise that says exactly what
is going on here and how do we join it up better in relation to
that individual or the family. One of the areas that I am particularly
concerned about is, for example, in youth pre-emption. We have
On Track, Sure Start, Education Action Zones, a range of initiatives,
which are very welcome and very necessary, but if you take a deprived
neighbourhood the key to making those work effectively is mapping
them out in the first place and actually making sure that if there
is a problem with a family with an agency, that is shared amongst
the other agencies and the most appropriate intervention is triggered
into that family. What we have at the moment is a range of silo
initiatives, which are very welcome but the Local Strategic Partnership
and local partnerships could direct them to far greater effect
upon individual families within estates or neighbourhoods.
512. What do you think the biggest problem is
with ASBOs and how could they be improved?
(Mr Baggott) I think it is the speed at which they
can be implemented, first of all, and the fact that they are being
treated as any other part of the criminal justice process, rather
than something that uniquely is about keeping someone out of the
criminal justice system. I think the strength of ASBOs is probably
more in terms of their warning and their pre-emption and putting
some guidelines around behaviour rather than the punitive way
in which they are being viewed by some defence solicitors and
some courts. They are actually a great way of keeping people out
of prison because they send a message. At the moment they are
being treated in relation to the punitive part of it as opposed
to boundaries of acceptable behaviour.
Chairman: On that note, can I thank you very
much for your evidence. That was very helpful, thank you.