Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 500-512)



Christine Russell

  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.

Mr O'Brien

  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.

Ms King

  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 that?
  (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 lives.

  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.

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