New analytical tool is helping force deliver our problem-solving aims
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ACC Stuart Ellison tells us how a new tool is helping to tackle anti-social behaviour hotspots in the county.
“Earlier this year, working closely with the local authority, our Early Intervention and Prevention Unit and other agencies, we tackled one of the county’s worst anti-social behaviour hot spots. A supermarket car park, which youngsters would use as a nightly race-track, was causing major noise nuisance for local residents, and had led to some 850 calls into the police over an 8-year period.
“Each call would lead to a response, with a police vehicle being deployed and those found in the car park being warned or cautioned about their behaviour, vehicles seized, section 57 notices put in place, and patrols set up. Yet most weekends we’d see the same behaviour, the same local disturbance, and the same calls into the police.
“The long-lasting solution came about by putting pressure on the supermarket to look at the design of their carpark, with a suggested redesign that would prevent people from entering except when the supermarket was open. These changes would lead to an immediate and dramatic fall in incidents, falling from an average of 25 calls per month, to now nearly zero. More importantly, local residents felt relieved and satisfied that the problem was tackled and their lives could go back to normal.
“This ‘problem solving’ approach is at the heart of our new neighbourhood policing strategy, and the work of our specialist policing teams. Instead of deploying police officers to attend scenes, break up anti-social behaviour and, where necessary, arrest offenders, we’re looking at how we can tackle the root causes that enable it to happen, where possible with other agencies and organisations that can help us solve the problem. In this case, an open car park which made it easy for drivers to race around at night, causing major noise nuisance.
“While this approach is not ‘new’, it has really taken off with the development of a new analytical tool by our officers and staff in our Newcastle policing team, which makes it far easier for local policing teams to identify ‘problem’ locations, offenders and those they victimise, and which is now available across the force. Having this information mapped in one tool makes it far easier for officers and staff to better understand where to focus their efforts. Then, using best practice approaches, our officers and staff, with colleagues in other agencies, can work collaboratively through these problems to identify the steps needed to tackle root causes and solve them for good.
“To ensure that all our local policing teams are approaching this in the same way, we’ve established a ‘problem solving lead’ in every local police team – formally qualified staff tasked with ensuring that the analytical tool and approaches are being used by officers in each area.
“The approach is already producing some staggering results: of 98 problem locations identified, leading, on average, to over 900 calls to the police each month, our problem-solving approach by local policing teams has meant that we’ve now reduced these calls to less than 90 per month – and seen much improved victim satisfaction.
“This approach is not unique to Staffordshire, as police forces up and down the country focus on prevention rather than reaction. The challenge has always been resourcing this approach, and balancing the need to urgently respond to what is an unprecedented level of 999 and 101 calls.
“We’re also taking advantage of nationally available information, too, to help ensure that our officers and PCSOs have the latest best tactics and techniques to identify solutions to common problems. We’re developing our own “Practice Bank” to share what works, learning from cases here in Staffordshire, like the supermarket car park, and will soon be sharing it across all parts of Staffordshire Police. This will hopefully contribute to nationally available information on ‘what works’ that is available to all forces.
“From next year problem-solving will be a central feature in the training of all new police recruits into Staffordshire, embedding problem-solving into officers’ approaches from the outset.
“Of course, we will always respond to incidents and emergencies, but by taking this preventative approach, we hope to reduce repeat demand, improve victim satisfaction, and make Staffordshire a safer, more confident community.”