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News - 6 November 2012

London conference on Exclusion Schemes biggest so far

A full house at The Hippodrome
Partnerships Against Crime's London & South East regional conference took place on 25 October at The Hippodrome, Leicester Square. With more than 100 delegates and four exhibitors, it was the biggest yet organised by PAC.

“We felt the conference would be a good one from the overwhelming interest expressed in the weeks before the event” says PAC Administrator Pam Millhouse. “And we were right. Looking through the questionnaires handed in at the end, it was obvious that this year’s series of regional conferences really is answering a major need for more information about exclusion schemes”.

“I have to say also, that we were assisted enormously by the generosity of The Hippodrome who enabled us to hold the event in this exciting venue in the heart of London’s West End. So thanks are due to them – and to the Safer West End Business Partnership, of which The Hippodrome is a member.

PAC's London & South East conference on 'Exclusion Schemes: reducing High Street Criome and Anti-Social Behaviour' was the second in its series of regional conferences on the subject. Next stop is Leeds in December followed by Birmingham in February and Glasgow in May 2013.

As before, the emphasis of the conference was firmly on the practical. Editor of CRP News, Gabrielle Stirling, who also chaired the day, presented the Keynote Session, providing a short, comprehensive overview of the subject. From her opening statement ‘Every man’s home is his castle’ (and apologising for its non-PC style) Gabrielle explained how the Common Law ‘right of exclusion’ is the basis of local business crime reduction organisations. She showed how – and why – exclusion schemes are playing an ever-more important role in reducing low-level crime and anti-social behaviour in more and more town and city centres throughout the country.

She also pointed to the fact that, with ‘front line’ policing being necessarily impacted by current spending cuts, exclusion schemes are playing a growing part in policing strategy, with police forces working more and more closely – in a ‘supportive’ and not a ‘directive’ role – with them. Stirling praised such partnership-working but warned that a true partnership requires give and take on all sides. Bill Moss, Town Centre Manager at Maidstone in Kent, explained how he had built the local ‘Maidsafe’ business crime reduction partnership into one of the most successful in the country. Maidstone boasts Kent’s biggest retail and night-time economies and Bill sees a high-visibility, pro-active partnership as a key part of the town’s plans to keep it that way. Maidsafe runs retail and night-time exclusion schemes which have helped to reduce daytime shoplifting and night-time anti-social behaviour. While one in 10 retail units in the town are vacant, Maidstone has succeeded in avoiding the kind of high street decline which is threatening other large towns of a similar size.

Bill described a wide range of projects and programmes which Maidsafe has undertaken, all with the ultimate aim of reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, or reducing its impact on the local community. Like many other towns with big night-time economies, Maidstone has its street pastors and taxi marshals. But it also installs temporary urinals on Friday and Saturday nights, and gives out free bottles of drinking water (financed through a grant from Baroness Newlove’s Safer Communities Fund) to those in need. Each bottle is labelled with advice on how to keep sober and, for those for whom the advice is too late, how to keep safe. Another successful project, Maidsafe’s ‘Urban Blue’ bus has also paid dividends. The vehicle, donated by Stagecoach, is parked in a town-centre position each weekend night and serves a mix of first aid, free water and timely, convenient support to distressed young clubbers. What, asked Bill, is the secret of MaidSafe’s success? First, he says, get involved with every organisation active in the town. Second, talk to them. ‘Simple’, he says.

Tony Mernagh runs Brighton & Hove Business Crime Reduction Partnership – as well as an out-sourcing service providing administration support to new or existing crime reduction partnerships. He described the major decisions for a start-up partnership: incorporation options (ranging from ‘unincorporated association’ through to limited company – limited by shares or by guarantee) and the benefits of becoming a ‘community interest company’; purchase of computer equipment and an online system for distributing information to members; selection of a suitable radio network; selection of appropriate insurance cover.

Since setting up in 1998 Brighton & Hove Business Crime Reduction Partnership has grown from a volunteer-staffed affair with just 30 members to an operation with a staff of four full-timers servicing a membership of around 450. The success of the partnership has been built around its exclusion scheme which excludes offenders who have been given two official warnings. Last year the partnership received around 5,000 incident reports from members. On the basis of these, around 1,000 individuals were given an official warning. Of these, just 65 went on to receive a second warning and therefore were excluded. The figures, says Tony Mernagh, demonstrate not only the success of the Brighton & Hove scheme but the effectiveness of exclusion schemes in general.

PAC was delighted to be able to welcome Roy Smith of the Metropolitan Police, as a speaker to the conference. Roy had only recently been given the role of manager of Business Crime Reduction Partnerships throughout the Met area, and he briefly described some of his own priorities in that role. His presentation covered radio systems and how, through them, partnerships can work with the police in delivering tactical support and intelligence gathering. He was speaking from experience; Roy played a key part in setting up the successful SaferSoho Business Partnership two years ago and, more recently, the Safer West End Business Partnership. He has thus overseen investment in, and deployment of, perhaps the single largest radio communications network in any business crime reduction partnership. But, as he explained, radio networks are not the preserve of only the large partnerships.

New partnerships should not be awed by the kind of technical details that too many radio systems salespeople are too happy to provide, said Roy. He cut through the jargon to provided some simple guidelines to ensure sensible buying decisions. He also provided some excellent practical advice on a number of fronts. In particular, he advised, partnerships should work from the first with police and councils to ensure they can benefit from existing CCTV support, and to coordinate as much as possible their own radio plans with the local police strategy. Real partnership, said Roy, with police especially, is the key to successful schemes.

The subject of computer-based administration systems was addressed by Charlie Newman of Littoralis, supplier of what Newman believes is the only comprehensive online administration system for crime reduction partnerships. The three components of any such systems, he said, should be a secure web-based intranet, a database management system for managing and processing incident and offender details and generating ‘key performance indicators’, and a set of online communications options, all integrated together into one single system.

Newman emphasised the importance of e-communications in efficient partnership administration. The secure intranet is ideal for making mugshot galleries of offenders available to members, and proving them with access, 24/7, to online incident reporting forms. All the information entered by members through the intranet is automatically passed to the database where the scheme administrator can process data, and output reports, with a single click of a mouse. But the weekly automated eNewsletter, says Newman, plays an essential part in gradually increasing the level of involvement of members in the intranet – something that cannot otherwise be taken for granted. It also serves as an invaluable communication platform between administrator and members.

Finally, Christine Graham provided a view of the future, specifically how new government policies could change the funding landscape for Business Crime Reduction Partnerships. Christine, who is a consultant on crime and anti-social behaviour reduction for local government, described the likely impact of the new Police & Crime Commissioners, as well as the government’s new measures to replace Anti-Social Behaviour Orders with Criminal Behaviour Orders, Crime Prevention Injunctions and Notices, and Community Protection Orders.

One of the ‘hottest’ subjects in the world of low-level crime reduction is ‘Restorative Justice’. Christine explained why government, police and the courts alike have all started to promote the concept, and how local partnerships can and should become involved in delivering and supporting RJ projects. Finally, she emphasised the importance of ensuring that practitioners in Restorative Justice are properly trained in the subject, and called for the provision of RJ training to support its growth.


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