'The results from this type of work are fantastic' - how force's Harm Reduction Hubs use problem solvers to reduce repeat or trending crimes
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They were introduced to tackle repeat or trending crimes using highly-skilled problem solvers and take the pressure away from officers ‘on the beat’.
Staffordshire Police’s Harm Reduction Hubs identify high demand or high-risk crimes and what causes those crimes to occur frequently. They then work with other units in the force – as well as outside partner agencies – to put plans in place to reduce those risks and reduce the demand on the force’s resources.
“The hubs have been successful in identifying the causes of risks and we’ve been able to put plans in place to reduce those risks and protect people,” said Neighbourhood Sergeant Mark Burslem, who oversees the Harm Reduction Hub in Cannock and has been involved with them for the past two-and-a-half years. “We are now able to do that in more depth through linking up with response teams, CID and the Knowledge Hub. We also work with outside partners such as local councils, housing groups etc.”
The hubs look at a wide-ranging remit – including anything deemed as high demand or frequency that carries an increased risk of harm. They also support those people who are repeatedly calling the police. This may be for a variety of reasons, which could be related to mental health, domestic abuse, missing people, anti-social behaviour and also any crime trends.
And outlining their roles, Charlie Emmett – the Deputy Commander and Harm Reduction Hub Sergeant who oversees the Stoke North hub out of Burslem Police Station – said: “The hub is a blend of police officers, police staff and PCSOs, they don’t have an ‘area’ or ‘beat’ like others, but are highly-skilled problem solvers who deal with a wide variety of reports.
“We see some people calling the police three or four times a day, which takes up a lot of police resources. Therefore, the specially trained hub PCSOs build up a relationship with the member of the public, and look to assess and address the root cause of the problem making that person feel like they need to be calling the police. It may not be that the police are the appropriate agency to support this person, and therefore the PCSOs identify what other partner organisations are available and can support them.
Back row, from left, PCSO Simon Jones, PC Robert Baker and PC Andrew Birchenhall, and front row, from left, PC Bonnie Rowley, Sgt Charlie Emmett, PC Gemma Plant of Staffordshire Police’s Stoke North Harm Reduction Hub
“The results from this type of work are fantastic. By addressing the issues, it means the individual themselves are in a better place, with the right and appropriate support, and also reducing the demand on the police, freeing up time to support other members of the community.
“This work is also applied to families with children who are causing anti-social behaviour and who are on the edge of criminality. We work with those families to get the right referrals to prevent that child from offending and entering the criminal justice system.”
Another way of policing these areas is to work with offenders to prevent them doing so again. One element of this is working with domestic abuse charities such as the Staffordshire-based New Era.
Charlie added: “If you are reporting domestic abuse my staff are the people behind the scenes helping you. Not all police work is done out on the streets. We do work in the background and join all the puzzle pieces together.
“We are utilising the Perpetrator Programme through New Era which aims to prevent offending such as domestic abuse. It is right to focus on working with victims, but by working with both victims and offenders this can make significant differences to people’s lives. The programme gets them to see how their behaviour can affect others.”
And Mark added: “A referral goes in to New Era and, certainly with the complex incidents and cases, they do provide a lot of support to victims. Not just through the court process, but how they access advice and support.”
Helping the vulnerable comes under their remit too.
Sgt. Mark Burslem with PC Nicola Chambers, left, and PC Deborah Barton of the Cannock Harm Reduction Hub
“People call the police all the time – vulnerable people who need us,” Charlie continued. “We can support these people and build trust. Recently, a woman drug user found support at rehab as a direct result of her engagement with local officers and the hub. She is now turning her life around. She says it ‘saved her life’.
“Anything where somebody is at risk we look to safeguard that person. It’s not the glamorous side of policing but it does some absolutely vital work behind the scenes.”
And Mark added: “It’s worked really well. We work around domestic abuse, anti-social behaviour, exploitation of children and adults. A lot of cases are complex and take time to sort out. And some people need support to move forward in their life.
“We’re set up to do that in the Harm Reduction Hubs. We’re constantly building up expertise and contacts, and constantly building up new ways of thinking.”
And he believes their work is “critical” to supporting those ‘on the beat’. He continued: “Often the public don’t see this back-office function to policing. But the knowledge contained in the hubs and the ability to advise and direct officers around points of vulnerability is vital.”
For more details on all Staffordshire Police is doing in the area you live, visit: https://www.staffordshire.police.uk/a/your-area/