The Government's Approach to Crime Prevention - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 237 - 256)



  Q237  Chairman: Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman, thank you very much for coming to give evidence this morning. This is an inquiry into crime prevention, how the Government has done in preventing crime rather than dealing with crime, and of course the mantle of greatness is given to those who win wars not to those who prevent wars. I want to know, to start with, how much of a priority for the police is crime prevention, as opposed to dealing with crime after it has occurred.

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: If you go right back to Lord Peel and the beginning of policing in London and across the country, the focus has always been discussed as preventing crime being the primary object, and detecting crime when it has occurred being the secondary object of policing. An awful lot of what we do is around preventing crime. The last few years have seen a movement away from detection being the primary issue for policing into reducing the levels of victimisation and the levels of criminality, and that has worked through and such programmes as the local area agreements and the PSAs have moved the focus away from just what do we do when a crime has happened into how we work in partnerships to reduce crimes happening in the first place. In terms of a direction of travel, it is definitely where we have been going and definitely what we are focusing on. However, we are the part of the partnership, if you like, the part of the structure which is responsible for enforcement activity, and therefore a very large part of our role is about catching and putting before the courts those people who commit crime. It is part of the agenda to reduce crime and it would be wrong for us to not keep that focus.

  Q238  Chairman: There was an article in The Times this week about the Scilly Isles. You may have seen it. It said that this is the most wonderful place to live in the United Kingdom because there is virtually no crime—I think six crimes had been committed last year. This is the ideal, the nirvana in which everyone would like to live. We are not going to get to that position, are we, in the United Kingdom because crime is going to be committed? Our concern in this Committee is the emphasis that is given as far as crime prevention is concerned. We know, for example, how much of a policeman's time is spent on bureaucracy. We are given these figures. Jan Berry has recently given these figures as well. If you take the average police constable, how much of that police constable's time would be spent on doing crime prevention work as opposed to trying to reach targets, filling in forms, that kind of thing?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: You need to have a model of what you mean by crime prevention. From my specific position, there are a number of strands within that. Some are giving straightforward advice and assisting with the design of issues to prevent crime happening. The neighbourhood policing agenda is all around increasing confidence and reducing the fear of crime. There is an awful lot of research which shows that where you increase confidence and reduce fear, people comply more and commit less crime, so there is a direct crossover. In London, specifically, the growth of neighbourhood policing has led to a reduction in crime in the areas where it has been brought in. There are other models around youth crime, about intervention with young people to prevent them becoming offenders. Then there are models around social interactions with other people.

  Q239  Chairman: A lot of what you have described are duties that could well be conducted by PCSOs going around to a person's house and advising them, "You need a burglar alarm" or "Are the windows secure?" et cetera. Giving a house a crime audit is something that can be done by someone who is not a police officer. You do not have to be a police officer to do this, but those are the structures that have been created over the last 12 years. We know how much time a police officer spends on bureaucracy. We know that. We know how much time they spend on the beat. We do not seem to know how much time is spent on crime prevention.

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: If you take all those things I have described and then add onto that the arresting and detaining of offenders as being about preventing them from committing further crimes, almost all police activity—and I include in that all other parts of the organisation as well as police officers, so PCSOs and police staff—when it is not doing things like bureaucracy or when we are not hanging around for other things that we get involved with, is focused on preventing crime. My position would be that, once you take the bureaucracy out, almost everything is around preventing crime. If you want to look at how much time we spend on crime prevention advice, I do not have that measure—although, as an organisation, the Metropolitan Police would be able to provide it. Other forces may not be able to provide it.

  Q240  Chairman: Do you have crime prevention officers in the Met? How many deal just with crime prevention?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: We have 96 crime prevention design analysts. We have 4,600 people within the neighbourhood policing teams who have had training to give advice around crime prevention. Then we have a very small number, a residue number, of about 20 specific crime prevention officers. There are reasons for the difference. For instance, you talked about alarms just now. For us to give professional advice around alarm systems and which ones would work in particular areas, the person giving that advice has to have a level of competence which is above normal. The vast majority of advice that we give is really about British Standard locks, shutting windows and doors, and those sorts of things.

  Q241  Chairman: There is no doubt in your mind that if somebody has a burglar alarm on their house it acts as a deterrent.

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: Absolutely no doubt in my mind, but there are a number of other things which act as a deterrent as well: the way that buildings are open to give natural surveillance; the way they are designed to prevent through-flow of people. For instance, cul-de-sacs are far less likely to be subject to crime than through roads. Private roads are less subject to crime. Where there is access from the rear of a property, that increases the risk of crime. There is a whole range of things which you can do, burglar alarms being definitely one. The previous evidence talked about advice. One of the key issues is that most crime happens opportunistically, and most crime happens because people have not shut doors/ have not locked windows.

  Q242  Chairman: Something very basic. You are a distinguished police officer; you have been around for a long time. Our discussions are also focused on the causes of crime. If you had to pick off the top of your head the top three causes of crime, what would they be?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: If I start with violent crime: specifically over the last couple of years, we have seen a massive rise in the number of young people being involved in murder and being the victims of murder, and then getting back in control of that, if you like. The whole issues around violent crime are how people grow up from a very early age. There is a whole issue around the involvement of the health services and social services with very young people, neglect within families, support within young families. There is a whole series of issues around how safe young people are in primary, junior and secondary schools, how safe they feel, how supportive they are, and then there is a whole set of issues around where do they turn to for peer support. Do they turn to something constructive and positive, or do they turn to a group of people who are getting them involved in a sort of gang type network? That is the sort of framework. Around violence, it is that whole issue around the interconnectedness of all of the bits of the state and family that support people growing up. If you look at acquisitive crime, many of the same things apply. An awful lot of acquisitive crime is committed by young people. That is not to say all young people; in fact the minority of young people commit crime, but when you look at the peak offending age being 21, it is in that ten to 21 year age range that the majority of acquisitive crime is committed. The issues there are two-fold. One is around how to intervene in young people's lives, to deal with those who are going to commit one crime as they are growing up. They need a short, sharp shock of some description, part of which could just be being arrested and being addressed. The other part is about what are their family ties and connections, to prevent them going off the rails further. I suppose the third thing which we really ought to be focusing on is how we design buildings, premises and locations to reduce the likelihood of crime happening. You mentioned a little earlier whether there is any evidence of this working. Secure by Design is situational crime prevention. There is a lot of evidence showing that those places where those principles are being used are up to 60% less likely to have crime committed in them than those that are not. That whole thought about how we design new things is one of the issues that I think we ought to get a grip on.

  Chairman: Thank you.

  Q243  Gwyn Prosser: You have just told us about some of the agencies and initiatives in place which, with correct intervention, should reduce crime amongst young people. There are a lot of others, of course, including Sure Start and Children Centres and intervention with families. With all that going on, to what extent do police officers feel that all they can do is plug the gaps in those areas? You also talked about interconnectivity. Do you feel that there is the correct level of co-ordination between all the agencies, all trying to do the same thing? How could it be improved?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: There are probably three levels to think about how we provide services in this area, if you want to use that terminology. The bits where I think we are well connected and where we work really well together is about the targeted provision of services to those people who are committing crime, who are already into that cycle. Most of those now, through youth offending teams, through youth projects, through the various arrangements, are well co-ordinated. At the very high level, for those people who are probably going into prison, who are having detention orders, I think it is well organised. The area where it becomes quite difficult for people to understand is at the sort of universal, provision-to-everybody type area. How do we all work together to assist all young people growing up?—if I may put it in that generic way. The police role quite often has been to fill the void in youth provision out-of-hours. We will have provision during schooling hours and quite often provision mid-week during the evenings, but on Friday and Saturday nights we have seen a lack of provision and young people hanging around on street corners, getting into trouble and creating that sort of emphasis for police intervention. That is the bit where, historically, and still at the moment, we have not been as tied up as we could be. I think the police have a real definite role in being the front end of joint services around those types of people, because we are the ones out on the streets in uniform identifying them, but I do not think we are always as capable as we need to be to intervene appropriately with them.

  Q244  Gwyn Prosser: We have all heard stories from people of my age looking back at the time of their youth. If a policeman, a copper, came along the road, there was due deference and respect, et cetera, and just a few words would be enough to send you scampering. Today we hear stories from community support officers of some real-life attitudes, where young youths are being cheeky, at best, and insulting and abusive, at worst, without any sort of recourse taking place. What has happened in the meantime? I know it is a big question, but what is your view and with all your experience?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: I am still reeling at the Chairman's comment that I have been around a lot, so perhaps I am not the best person to comment on that. I think there is a very significant problem for young people in their interactions with the police. Many of the sorts of structures around society generate an environment where young people think they should challenge where they can push boundaries, where they can be cheeky, if you like. Without check, that being cheeky can lead into antisocial behaviour and then into violence. When they meet police officers and PCSOs, that is often the first time when they will meet someone who has to draw a line and say, "This cannot happen."

  Q245  Gwyn Prosser: Because the line has not been drawn at home perhaps.

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: Because I do not think the line is drawn enough in other places. That often puts us into a position of confrontation—and it is quite right, that is what we are here for, but that confrontation is exacerbated by the fact that the young people do not believe that the line has been drawn, and so a lot of our work is dealing with setting that boundary and enforcing that boundary and making it real, when other people, for a number of reasons, have not done that.

  Gwyn Prosser: Thank you.

  Chairman: Thank you, Mr Prosser. I cannot imagine you scampering away from anybody, including police officers.

  Q246  Mr Winnick: Mr Jarman, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has requested or instructed—whichever is the appropriate word—police officers to go round singly in patrols. This has apparently caused some concern, although the point has been made by the Commissioner that, where clearly it would be inadvisable for there to be just one police officer, that will not occur. Can you let us in on what is the current situation?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: Single patrol is the default position for patrol in the Metropolitan Police Service. All patrols should start with an officer working on their own. There are two strong principles behind that. The first is that a risk assessment has to take place beforehand to make sure it is appropriate for officers to work on their own. Can they achieve their aims if they are on their own? Do they have the ability to patrol singly? The second is where they are in their training cycle, so a number of officers do not have independent patrol status because of the way we train at the moment, so they have to patrol with somebody else. When I joined the organisation—which was over 30 years ago—single patrol was the way we did business. Somewhere between 30 years ago and about two years ago, we had drifted into a way of working which meant that officers were always in pairs. For the vast majority of activity, the officers do not need to be in pairs. They can complete their tasks on their own. When we have surveyed—we have done borough by borough reviews of their frameworks around patrol—most boroughs have said the same thing, that, apart from a small number officers who are responding to emergency calls and officers who are working at particular times of day and in particular locations, almost everybody can patrol on their own. That is where we are moving to at the moment. We are having to rethink how we train people, because we have trained them for working in pairs. We are thinking about how they give evidence at court, because, again, they have got used to there being two of them. All of those things are things which we can overcome. We want our officers out on the streets, engaging with the public, talking to the public, making sure that they have that interaction which leads to good intelligence, and making sure that people understand that they can walk confidently and safely on the streets.

  Q247  Mr Winnick: The report I saw indicated that there was a feeling that, apart from anything else, if two police officers are together they will inevitably be in conversation, and there will be a greater reluctance on the part of the public to come and speak to them if there is a problem. Is there any sort of substance in that?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: That seems to make sense to all of us who do this activity: if you are with somebody else, you will talk to that person and there is a barrier to overcome. The substance is probably academically not sound. It is just what we believe to be appropriate. We do know from talking to the public that the public feel safer in areas where they see more officers on patrol on their own. There could be a whole number of reasons behind that—probably because they are seeing more officers, but also because of the interaction.

  Q248  Mr Winnick: My constituency is not in a Metropolitan area, it is in the West Midlands, and I can assure you—and I would be surprised if the view of any of my parliamentary colleagues differed—that my constituents are reassured when they see police officers. Their only complaint is that they want to see them more often and more frequently—but that will not come as any surprise to you. As far as Friday and Saturday night activities are concerned, has there been any marked reduction in youth offending since the introduction of, as you know, Mr Jarman, targeted provision for those two nights? Have you or your colleagues noticed any reduction?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: There is a whole range of things that have happened in the last two years. The Youth Crime Action Plan brought in some targeted provision on Friday and Saturday nights. It also brought in Operation Staysafe. It brought a focus on delivering services at the time that they were needed in the high crime areas. Our indications are that, in those areas where additional funds have been made available and, in particular, an additional focus has been made, there has been a decrease in the amount of antisocial behaviour and violence. I think, though, that there are so many complex things happening at the same time that it would be wrong to draw a conclusion that it was just that one element that made a difference. That is a really important element, but we also know that things like the provision of Kicks, a football engagement programme in high crime areas at the time when crime happens, having something which engages young people and takes them off the street and gets them doing something positive, makes a difference on crime. We know also that, where we have police officers working closely with young people on problem-solving, on the things that are causing problems and leading to crime, that has reduced crime in those areas. There are a number of different models which have all been brought in at the same time, unfortunately, so to unpick and say, "That's the one that made the difference," is really difficult, but our indication would be that it makes sense that that has happened and it has happened and led to reductions in crime.

  Mr Winnick: Thank you very much.

  Q249  Martin Salter: Mr Jarman, I am concerned about generational crime. I have stood in playgrounds in some parts of my constituency with the then area commander, who has pointed out to me kids whose fathers' grandfathers he has arrested and dealt with, where subsequent conversations with the teachers show already that generational pattern of behaviour continuing. How do we break that cycle?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: There is a huge amount of evidence about this, about the fact that the way that your family and your peers behave will affect the way that you behave. I do not know why we need a lot of evidence to drive that out, but we do have that. There are a number of things that have to happen. First off, not everybody who grows up in those families gets involved in crime. A big chunk of people who live in a family where they have had that generation will make the choice to go on a different path. The sorts of things that make a choice are where they are given options of things that provide them with, if you like, an alternative family. I am thinking of things like the Scouts, the Guides, the Military Cadets, those sorts of long-term engagements with young people that give them an alternate view to that coming from the family. That works. Working with the whole family programme at the moment is an interesting concept. It seems hugely expensive, this new plan, where in some places we seem to have an awful lot of people working with a family, almost man-to-man marking, if you like, and an independent worker coming in. I am not quite sure how that will work when they pull that independent worker out from the family. I think it is really important to look at the interfamily dynamics and how you work with them. Also, we just have to deal with those people who are committing crime and setting the standard. Where a parent is committing crime and setting the basis, we need to be seen to be taking that person before the courts and showing young people that there is not a gain from it. There is that mixture of things. I also think the whole concept of taking some young people away from their families, whether it is fostering or whether it is putting them into care, is something that we ought to be considering. One of the problems is that the outcomes for young people in care are so poor at the moment that that is not really a viable alternative, but if we could get that outcome different for that option, that would be a really important one in some cases.

  Q250  Martin Salter: We are working in Reading at the moment on a range of youth adventure projects. My colleagues will laugh when I say that I am a keen fishermen, but some of the projects started life in Durham with the police, getting kids hooked on fishing. There is one in Wraysbury with Les Webber, you may be aware of: Get Hooked on Fishing Not Drugs or Crime. They have had some remarkable outputs and some remarkable results in terms of diverting young people. Is that to do with the fact that, whether it is football, whether it is sending kids away on summer camp, whether it is fishing, it is an activity that takes a huge lump of time and therefore becomes, if you like, an alternative value structure and an alternative family for a significant chunk of the week when that child would otherwise possibly be drifting into patterns of criminality? Is it about occupying them in a pretty intensive way?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: It is probably a number of things. One of them is getting them into a process over a long period of time where they are engaged with other people who set a series of values and expectations for them and enforce them.

  Q251  Martin Salter: Those can be different values from those they might receive at home.

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: From what is at home. The importance of sport or the arts or some activity is that that is what hooks young people—if you will pardon me sticking with hooking and fishing—into that behaviour in the first place, and once they are in there, that is the element that gets the slightly different dynamic. I also think these sorts of activities change aspirations for young people. When I was a borough commander in Southwark we surveyed lots of young people on what would make a difference to their lives. I remember one young boy who came to me afterwards and said, "The thing I would really like to do is to go fishing, but I haven't got a rod, I don't know where there is a river, and I don't know how to fish, so that's the end of that idea." That whole concept of generations of young people who may not have the aspiration to try these things unless somebody else sets up a programme which says "Come and have a go and get involved," is really important. Once you have changed the aspirations, they have got something to work for; whereas if they do not believe they can achieve anything, why would they buy into an education system, why would they buy into the state?

  Martin Salter: The answer, of course, is the River Wandle, and the charity is Thames21, which does a lot of work in South London. But I am sure you know that. Thank you, Chairman.

  Chairman: As we keep explaining to Mr Salter, we cannot all move to Reading—which seems to be the centre of all good things at the moment, thanks to his hard work.

  Q252  Mrs Dean: To what extent have ASBOs been a successful tool in preventing more serious offending?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: If you just took ASBOs on their own, I would probably not be supportive of them as a tool. But I think they are a really important part of a range of different interventions. There is a project in Cumbria where they have almost stopped using ASBOs and it has all moved into interventions, what we call ABCs, which are contracts with young people, letters engaging the family in trying to divert. The point about an ASBO is that it should be part of a long-term engagement with somebody and if the other approaches do not work then the anti-social behaviour order should be the way of intervening. For some other people, in some communities—and you would think about the neighbours-from-hell type element—we need to control people. We may not have the time for that long-term engagement and an ASBO is a very useful tool in those situations. They are very limited. In some cases, post-conviction, I really think the ASBOs are very useful because they maintain an ongoing "You must comply with what the order is." My overall position would be that this needs to be part of a much wider strategy and not just one thing that you put in. When we do that, all we are doing is effectively criminalising young people, because they will breach the ASBO. If you do not put anything around them, that does not make any difference. It is no different from PC Smith saying, "Don't do that again." All they have is a piece of paper that says, "Don't do that again." It has to be wider than just the ASBO.

  Q253  Mr Streeter: What is your experience of intervening with at-risk children over the 30 years that you have been a police officer? Do you think the current policy procedures are getting this right? If they are being removed to a place of safety, what then for the life chances of those children? What have you observed?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: The terrible outcomes of cases such as Victoria Climbié have quite properly focused us on the very serious end of child protection and have brought most of the joint agency working, looking at how do we protect young people from serious abuse and sexual abuse. One of the downsides of that is our focus on neglect and those young people who are at risk of a different type of failure. The Every Child Matters Agenda, the whole concept of looking at outcomes, is a very good concept. That is exactly what we should be doing. I know operationally children's services would say one of the problems from that is that they are getting far too many cases referred to them for them to be able to intervene. Overall in London, we went from making about 300 referrals a week to about 6,000 referrals a week as we moved into Every Child Matters. We have put new systems in to say that these are the high risk and these are the different levels, but for children's services to be able to deal with that volume on that sudden change I do not really think gave them a chance, and it has probably created a number of other issues as a result. When we were looking at what lay behind the murder of Damilola Taylor, we looked into the lives of some young people who were offending in Southwark in a lot of detail. One of the things that became clear to us was that, once young people started to become the victim of offending, whether it was within the house, where it was neglect, or whether it was outside, it led very often into a pattern that they could not get out of and they started offending as part of their response to it. We noticed with a number of people who were actually moved, either by their families or by the local authority away from the locality where that was happening, that their outcomes were significantly better. So I think there is some evidence that it is a really useful way of intervening; it is just that the problem, as I said before, is that the outcomes for care are not as good as they need to be.

  Q254  Mr Streeter: Have you come across anything in your experience to date which can turn a poor parent, a neglectful parent into a positive parent?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: I think again quite often we have large numbers of very young people trying to struggle with bringing up other young people and there are several initiatives across the country where there is support for young mothers particularly—because these initiatives tend to be focused on single parent families—and supporting them in helping them get their lives out of chaos makes a significant difference to the children and how the family grows up.

  Q255  Chairman: You clearly give the Government ten out of ten as far as dealing with the consequences of crime because crime figures have gone down, the Government tells us. How many marks would you give them out of ten for dealing with the causes of crime?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: I would go back to the ten out of ten—probably I would only give them eight out of ten anyway! Crime has come down but I think we could always do a lot better than we have done at the moment. There is a lot more that we could address on that.

  Q256  Chairman: So eight out of ten for dealing with crime. The causes of crime?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman: I think we have seen over the past few years a significant change in emphasis into the causes of crime and how we deal with them. I think that the ability for me to sit here and talk to you about young family intervention and understanding how young people growing up leads to crime has only come because the agenda in the public sector is about how do we work together, from pre-birth until adulthood, on reducing the criminal aspects that might affect young people. So I think there has been a massive change in the way that we work—a massive positive change. I do not want to give them a mark at all actually because I realise I have got myself into trouble with the eight out of ten. The point for me is not an issue of have we dealt with this—we clearly have not dealt with it. We are in a very complex society with lots of different pressures, both on individuals and on the community as a whole, which lead to the crime and the criminality; and we are in a community that is constantly changing. If you come into the major cities across the UK the churn of people within communities is phenomenal, as you will all know, and that churn leads to specific problems about preventing crime for the future. You cannot work with people over the long term when they are constantly moving and where you have constant influxes of people so that you keep on having to go back and deal with an issue with which you were dealing before. So in answer to your question, we have gone into a really interesting new place on dealing with those sorts of causes but we are probably not there yet. I think it is not just about right back in the beginning of people's offending, I think there is a bit the other way which is where we have identified people. We are just beginning to get an idea of how effective non-custodial sentences can be if we are more robust in making sure that people actually complete the non-custodial sentence, and that if we work on trying to prevent them committing crime again. So I think that dealing with the causes needs to go backwards but also needs to go into when someone has committed a crime how do we make sure that they have paid the punishment for what they have done and they do not commit further offences in the future; and the whole concept of integrated offender management, the Diamond Initiative in London is really useful for that.

  Chairman: Deputy Assistant Commissioner, thank you very much for giving evidence today.

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