Following on from last week`s article about problem solving, this week I will provide you with an overview of the work that partner agencies do to help resolve on-going issues in the community.
Once an area has been recognised as a location where there are anti-social behaviour problems or low level crime, the first thing that a community police officer will do is look at other reports in the area to see what is happening and when.
This is done because the individual people who make the reports will not necessarily know about the other reported problems, therefore they may not see their problem to be all that important. In addition, the police will be able to look at the wider picture and compare the descriptions of the offenders, the times and days when incidents happen and what type of crime has happened.
It will be easier for the police to have an overview of the situation by doing this, however, as I mentioned in my article last week, there will always be incidents which have not been reported, therefore an officer will need to visit the area and speak to people, such as shop owners and workers, and ask them if there are any problems – quite often there will be and there will be more information gathered, including the potential for CCTV images.
By referring to the problem solving triangle that I mentioned last week, an officer will be able to build a picture of what has happened and the impact that the behaviour and crime is having on the community.
This part is called the `analysis` – finding out the location and the victims. Included within this will be more useful detail, such as when the incidents occur, who is involved / or descriptions, CCTV and if there are witnesses.
The police will be able to add to the evidence picture, where they may recognise people from the CCTV, or they can share the images with schools or youth workers to find out names.
Patrols made at relevant times will also assist, where any youths seen in the area, especially those who fit the descriptions given by witnesses, can be taken; this will not only help in confirming those involved, but it will also deter criminal activity and reassure victims that something is being done.
Once the police have established more detail and found out some of the names of those involved, this will prompt further work to be done with the `offenders` which is the missing part of the problem solving triangle.
The work to be done with any identified offenders will largely depend on what is known about them.
In the case of someone regularly stealing from shops and being abusive or threatening to staff when told to leave, this may result in a prosecution and bail conditions not to go to the area of the shops, however, in the case of youths, then it is more likely that partner agencies will need to be involved.
Depending on where you live, there will be different arrangements, but within the Borough`s of Rushmoor, Hart and Basingstoke and Deane, the police work closely with the community safety officers, who work across these three Borough`s.
There are many partner agencies who may be asked to help, but this will depend on what is known about an individual, where they might come from a broken home, or one where there is domestic abuse, or substance misuse by parents, or a young person who is not in education, where social services and education may be required.
These additional concerns will not be known at first, which is why any police officer dealing with a young person should speak to them at home, with parents, where a lot can be established from a visit by looking around and asking relevant questions.
If the person involved lives in a home provided by social housing, they or their parents will be subject to a tenancy agreement and if the problems they cause are within the vicinity of their home, then they may be in breach of their tenancy agreement, therefore the housing provider can be contacted to assist with any problem solving.
The inclusion of a housing provider works well in the case of youths, because sometimes parents will not be too interested, but if they are given a warning letter about their child`s behaviour, then this will often get their interest where they may take more parental responsibility, which will help.
Initially it is important to put a stop to the on-going problems and sometimes this can be achieved easily by the young person signing an `Acceptable Behaviour Agreement` where they will agree not to go to the area where they have been part of the problem and to be home at a suitable time etc.
There may be some crimes which will need investigation to, so as well as an agreement, these will need to be looked at.
Last week I spoke about a church worker who was threatened and since my article, an elderly man who attends another church was assaulted by a youth, so these crimes would be looked into, where restorative justice (RJ) can be used and the partner agency who facilitates RJ can be brought in to help (I wrote about RJ quite recently – this is where victims and offenders can meet with a mediator, where the victims can explain the impact of the crime to the offender, who can listen to the impact that their behaviour has caused)
These lower level incidents are important because unless they are dealt with, the problems may increase and become more serious, but the community will lose faith in the organisations who could help.
Provided the incidents are quite minor and the persons involved do not have a criminal history, then the above type of problem solving can be used. However, if this is tried or refused by the young person, then any re-offending will result in a more formal and robust action, where prosecutions may follow. If this happens, then the court will be told of the efforts the partner agencies have made to divert the young person away from their behaviour, which they failed to engage with, which will often lead to the court taking a more robust action too.
The methods I describe can apply to adults too, however, anti-social behaviour and low level offending will often involve the younger members of the community.