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

5  Roles and responsibilities

Public sector partnerships

146.  The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 brought together relevant agencies at a local level including the police, local authority, youth offending teams and health services into crime and disorder reduction partnerships (CDRPs), with the aim of improving multi-agency working to reduce crime. This has generally been considered to be a positive step forward. Speaking on behalf of the police, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman considered that:

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.[259]

147.  Despite this encouraging progress, a 2005 Home Office evaluation highlighted that many CDRPs experience difficulties around ensuring the appropriate staff from all the relevant agencies were represented; a lack of engagement on the part of some agencies, such as social services and youth services; an over-proliferation of groups set up to tackle crime; and a lack of willingness or ability to share data across partner agencies.[260] The Minister of State responsible for crime and policing argued that CDRPs needed to continue to "raise the game". Stephen Rimmer noted that performance between partnerships varied and was highly dependent on the quality of leadership.[261]

148.  Professor Laycock expressed disappointment about some of these limitations given the radical potential of the Crime and Disorder Act:

Partners do come together but the responses are not driven by data and sometimes there is a reluctance to take action if it means that the people who have got to take that action have got to spend money … the Crime and Disorder Act, which I think was a brilliant Act, has not really led to good analysis and that analysis has not driven the activities of Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships.[262]

We did hear one good example of this kind of data-led action, namely the Safer Sutton Partnership's use of the Intelligence through Neighbourhood Security Interviews methodology, by which interviews conducted in the home by police officers and PCSOs are analysed to provide a detailed intelligence picture of crime on a ward-by-ward basis and used to generate multi-agency action plans to deal with the issues identified.[263] Alan Given, who leads the Nottingham Crime and Drugs Partnership, stressed the importance of demonstrating the value of crime reduction for all the participating agencies for the other areas of their work, in particular the cost benefits, to ensure they are fully on board.[264]

149.  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman highlighted one area of multi-agency working which is his view remains weak:

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? … The police role quite often has been to fill the void in youth provision out-of-hours … 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.[265]

In response, the Minister of State at the Department for Children, Schools and Families, the Rt Hon Vernon Coaker MP, cited the introduction of local Children's Trust Boards, which will be a statutory requirement as of April 2010 as likely to make a "real difference with respect to that". According to the Minister, Trusts will be required to produce a plan for the provision of services for young people in their area with the aim of ensuring greater co-ordination in delivery of services.[266]

150.  The advent of better multi-agency working through crime and disorder reduction partnerships represents an important step forward in crime prevention; however, not all operate to the same high standard. The Home Office has identified the importance of strong leadership in partnership performance but we remain uncertain as to how this is being enhanced in under-achieving areas. Effective partnerships are also rigorous in their collection and analysis of data to support their crime reduction activities, and able to incentivise active involvement on the part of all relevant agencies by highlighting the benefits of involvement for their work streams. The Department for Children, Schools and Families expects that Children's Trust Boards will drive improved co-ordination for delivery of diversionary activities for young people: we hope that our successor Committee in the next parliament will revisit this issue at an appropriate juncture.

151.  In January 2010 the Daily Telegraph published a leaked letter from a Home Office official to local authorities in England, warning that capital grants for the Safer and Stronger Communities fund will be cut by 50% next year, from around £20m to £10m.[267] The Safer and Stronger Communities Fund was introduced for all local authorities in England in 2005 to bring together Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (now Department for Communities and Local Department) and Home Office funding streams aimed at tackling crime, anti-social behaviour and drugs, empowering communities and improving the condition of streets and public spaces, prioritising the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods. It is therefore a key source of funding for crime prevention for designated responsible authorities under the Crime and Disorder Act. It is worth noting that the Policing and Crime Act 2009 amended that Act to add a further statutory duty on reducing re-offending to the list of duties that responsible authorities must carry out.

152.  When asked about the funding cut, the Home Office Minister of State responsible for crime and policing argued that it would "not" have a "major impact" on CDRPs' ability to deliver crime reductions: for some local councils the loss might be as little as £8,000 although this would rise to £100,000 for others.[268] The Head of the Safer Sutton Partnership, Warren Shadbolt, disagreed with this assessment:

The 50% cut in the capital element of Safer and Stronger Communities Funds represents £26,000 for Sutton, and that will now be a gap that will occur on our Life Centre project … All of these apparently minor funding streams are crucial for smaller boroughs with lower revenue.[269]

153.  We appreciate that the Government is currently having to make tough decisions about funding. We do, however, anticipate that the cut to the Safer and Stronger Communities Fund will have a negative impact on the ability of some local authorities to deliver crime reduction initiatives.

Voluntary and community sector

154.  The Home Office submission highlights the important role played by the voluntary and community sector in "providing links to and advocates for people who have experienced crime, as well as providing tailored services to diverse communities":

The Home Office is committed to working with the VCS as an effective partner in delivering crime reduction activities through promoting local commissioning; providing funding; seeking the expertise of experienced practitioners; and sharing effective practice and ideas.[270]

The Youth Justice Board stated that third-sector involvement has been "among the factors that have contributed to the successful delivery of [prevention] programmes".[271] Both the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice have developed formal strategies with the voluntary sector relating to crime reduction and the Chief Executive of Nacro acknowledged that the involvement of the voluntary sector has increased significantly.[272]

155.  Catch 22 outlined some of the reasons for this:

  • Third sector providers are more popular with service users;
  • They have an ability to innovate, and tailor provision to service users' needs; and
  • They are better able to engage those perceived as 'hard to reach' because of the more flexible approach taken by individual voluntary providers, or because of distrust of statutory agencies.[273]

Peta Halls, Development Officer at the National Youth Agency, reiterated this final point:

To engage with those young people and to gain their trust, as somebody who is not from their community was extremely difficult. We found it incredibly interesting that they absolutely never would engage with the police. They have total distrust of authority.[274]

156.  However, we also note the conclusion of our colleagues on the Justice Committee that the voluntary sector is "under-utilised" in the rehabilitation of prisoners. According to Napo the number of new contacts won by the voluntary sector to assist prisons and probation since 2004 has been negligible.[275] The voluntary sector faces a number of challenges to winning such contracts, not least bureaucracy. Paul McDowell told us that:

One of the big frustrations for us is the level of bureaucracy built into many of the commissioning systems … Too many managers, too many levels and too much bureaucracy. What we would very much like to see ... is straight line commissioning arrangements so we can deliver horizontal joined-up services.[276]

Fiona Blacke also argued for "really sensitive commissioning" from local authorities, so that they look beyond the "obvious and visible" organisations to those who can provide the best services but may have less capacity to meet funding application demands.[277]

157.  Ms Blacke also pointed to barriers faced by potential volunteers. A survey of the public conducted for Louise Casey's review in April 2008 found that three out of four of the 1,852 respondents would be interested in giving up spare time for prevention-related activities such as helping run activities for young people and joining Neighbourhood Watch.[278] The review also noted a reduction in Neighbourhood Watch membership over the preceding decade and that three-quarters of those surveyed for the British Crime Survey said they would join a Neighbourhood Watch scheme if one were available.[279]

158.  Capacity building is one important aspect in this, particularly to ensure that such schemes are not restricted to the more affluent neighbourhoods which are in any case less likely to experience high crime levels. Louise Casey told us that:

Last year we trained over 4,000 members of the public who were tenants' leaders, Neighbourhood Watch leaders, and so on and so forth, key leadership members in their communities, to do a number of things, including setting up activities in community groups.[280]

The Home Office is also investing £500,000 in a Neighbourhood Watch capacity building programme focusing on developing the activities of local groups, improving communications for volunteers; developing toolkits and training for volunteers; and strengthening the national and regional governance structures. Capacity Builders, through the Home Office, have also engaged the Design Council to support work to strengthen membership in hard-pressed areas, among the younger generations and in more diverse communities.[281]

159.  The third sector can play a crucial role in providing preventative initiatives and support for those at risk of offending or re-offending of the kind we discussed earlier in our Report. They tend to be more popular with service users, particularly those who distrust statutory agencies. We are pleased that the Home Office and Ministry of Justice have recognised this through the development of formal strategies with the voluntary sector. Voluntary sector groups are, however, frustrated by high levels of bureaucracy. In particular those groups best able to engage the hard-to-reach may lack the capacity to apply for funding. There is also evidence that more members of the public would like to play a more active role in crime prevention through activities such as Neighbourhood Watch and volunteering with young people. We heard evidence from the Home Office about its work to build capacity with volunteers; this should include support for funding applications from organisations engaging hard-to-reach groups.


160.  In the Cutting Crime strategy, the Government acknowledged that there are few incentives for businesses to design out crime as there is little regulation, consumers have little choice or knowledge to inform their purchasing decisions, and businesses may not always bear the costs of the crime associated with their products and services. Professor Laycock gave us an example of when designing out crime can actually be commercially damaging:

Years ago when Vauxhall disaggregated the car radio so the speakers were here and the knobs were there and the rest of it, the sales of replacement car radios into Vauxhall cars went through the floor, they kind of shot themselves in the foot, and that is not uncommon.[282]

161.  However, the Government also noted that businesses are often also victims of crime—from shoplifting to fraud to theft of cash and valuables in transit, and therefore tackling crime through design will have benefits for the corporate sector.[283] SmartWater argued, for example, that if car parts were marked during their manufacturing stage, allowing parts to be tracked and traced over time, this would be to the benefit of legitimate car dealerships who have often been unable to compete due to competition from illegitimate workshops and garages using cheap parts to repair vehicles, recycled from stolen vehicles.[284] The Head of the Design and Technology Alliance, Sebastian Conran, explained other potential benefits for business:

Although initially business may seem to benefit inadvertently from a theft, the reality is that, as the thief becomes more sophisticated, he will begin to target business itself and so that will be self-defeating. Another issue is that, as people become more aware of the benefits of crime-resistant design, it will become a sales benefit and a feature that people will look for, in the same way that maybe environmental issues have now become features that people are conscious of and for which there is a demand.[285]

Mr Wraith agreed that safety is now being used as a marketing tool, in a way in which it never was ten or 15 years ago.[286]

162.  Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 requires each local authority and other responsible authority to 'exercise its functions with due regard to … the need to do all that it reasonably can to prevent crime and disorder in its areas'. Ken Pease, Visiting Professor at the University College London and the University of Loughborough, has argued that this duty could be extended to apply to private sector companies.[287] There have been some attempts towards mandating crime prevention considerations into commercial activity. For example, the Sustainable and Secure Buildings Act 2004 allowed for building regulations aimed at preventing crime. Rather than pursue this, the Department for Communities and Local Government included security requirements in the Code on Sustainable Homes—since 2008, over 90% of dwellings assessed have met these requirements—but the Department is currently consulting on amendments to the Code, including whether the security requirements should be made mandatory, or removed from the Code in favour of introducing new building regulations for security.[288]

163.  Witnesses spoke about their frustrations in trying to move the designing-out crime agenda forward with the corporate sector. Sebastian Conran gave us one example:

Having a functioning burglar alarm and one that is linked to the police response system will reduce your likelihood of being burgled. We have been lobbying to have a Home Security Assessment as part of the HIPs Report. The resistance, rather unbelievably, has been that if criminals come across this they will be able to access, through estate agents, which houses are vulnerable, and so we have to overcome that sort of resistance.[289]

The Government has also recently called on the mobile phone industry to do more to protect handset owners against theft. Alan Campbell, Home Office Minister for Crime Prevention, said that:

First this is a great opportunity—this is new technology which can be promoted around the world. But also mobile phone companies have a responsibility which goes beyond the profits they can make from phones; they have a social and a corporate responsibility to tackle crime.[290]

164.  Incentivising businesses to change their practices relies on providing them with data about the particular issue. Professor Laycock told us:

I think it is going to be a fairly long haul, and one of the reasons why I think it is extremely important that the Alliance, or something like it, stays in place is because getting leverage over manufacturers, especially if they say things like "Well, give us the evidence", which is sometimes extremely difficult to do, they just will not do it.[291]

At times it may be necessary to pursue a tougher approach. Professor Laycock gave us one example from the 1980s:

We knew that 40% of burglaries on local authority houses were related to the theft of money from gas and electricity coin meters. It was a huge problem. The fuel suppliers would not do anything about it because if your meter was broken into you had to pay them and you had to pay them to fix the meter, so they lost no money. Margaret Thatcher said to them, "If you do not do something, the Department of Energy has the power to deregulate 18 million meters overnight, so change them", and they did.[292]

Another example of this approach concerns the music shop HMV, which reduced crime in its Oxford Street store when the threat was made to reduce police services.[293]

165.  Many businesses will consider they have little incentive to protect their products from theft given that they may actually benefit commercially from a crime wave. Appeals to a sense of social responsibility may be insufficient to encourage businesses to take a serious approach to designing-out crime from their products. On occasions a tougher approach to force businesses to act has been successful; further opportunities may be generated by extending regulations to put some kind of crime prevention duty on businesses. However, persuading businesses of the benefits for action, particularly through emphasis on the popularity of secure products with the public, would be the optimum approach. It is important to have an effective evidence base in order to be able to demonstrate clearly to manufacturers where the problems lie. We therefore reiterate our earlier conclusion about the need for more action to develop a system for the earlier identification of emerging crime trends.

259   Q 256 Back

260   Home Office, Review of the partnership provisions of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998: report of findings, January 2006 Back

261   Q 341 Back

262   Q 373 Back

263   Ev 120 [Safer Sutton Partnership] Back

264   Q 288 Back

265   Q 243 Back

266   Q 417 Back

267   "Crime budget cut overshadows fall in offences", Daily Telegraph, 21 January 2010, Back

268   Q 342 Back

269   Q 425 Back

270   Ev 85 Back

271   Ev 136  Back

272   Q343 [Mr Hanson MP]; Q 168 [Mr McDowell] Back

273   Ev 107 Back

274   Q 58 Back

275   Justice Committee, First Report of Session 2009-10, Cutting Crime: the case for justice reinvestment, HC 94, para 56 Back

276   Qq 184, 186 [Mr McDowell] Back

277   Q 57 Back

278   Cabinet Office, Engaging Communities in Fighting Crime: A review by Louise Casey, June 2008, pp 73-6 Back

279   Ibid, p 74 Back

280   Q 17 Back

281   Ev 118 [Home Office] Back

282   Q 379 Back

283   Home Office, Cutting Crime-a new partnership 2008-11, July 2007, p 34 Back

284   Ev 100 Back

285   Q 219 Back

286   Ibid. Back

287   Ken Pease, "Crime Reduction", in Mike Maguire, Rod Morgan and Robert Reiner (eds),The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, Oxford, 2002, p 968 Back

288   Ev 131 [Home Office] Back

289   Q 230 Back

290   "Government calls for action on mobile phone crime", BBC News Online, 11 February 2010, Back

291   Q 379 Back

292   Ibid. Back

293   Ken Pease, "Changing the context of crime prevention", Reducing offending: an assessment of research evidence on ways of dealing with offending behaviour, Home Office Research Study 187, 1998, pp 39, 44 Back

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