Community Safety Service Overview
The Committee were advised that at the previous Community and Leisure Cabinet Committee in June a report was presented to Committee Members that provided an overview of the different service areas included within the Committee’s Portfolio. Community Safety has since been integrated into this Portfolio and therefore, the report had been updated to provide an overview of the work of the Community Safety Unit (CSU).
The Strategic Manager (CSU) guided Members through pages 63-65 of the report, fully briefing the Committee on the work of the Community Safety Unit and explained the key information and the current issues the team faced in the below service areas:
· Activity to improve public safety and protect people from harm
· Preventing and disrupting acquisitive crime
· Protecting and strengthening communities
· Meeting Partnership responsibilities
· Overseeing the delivery of the Council’s CCTV Service
The Community Safety Operations Manager highlighted a series of high profile police raids that were carried out yesterday morning to disrupt county line drugs gangs in the area. Letters were also delivered to residents that were suspected of drug dealing and further engaging was made in attempts to prevent more people getting involved in the county line drug trade. Referrals were made for people seeking help with their drug addictions.
The Strategic Manager (CSU) and the Community Safety Operations Manager fielded questions from Members and explained that:
· Officers were aware of requests for additional CCTV, and confirmed that signage could only be erected when there were cameras installed in a location. However there only needed to be sufficient signage to make people aware such as in and out of a road, not for every camera that had been installed
· In the Hive, Northfleet there were already a number of cameras which were operated separately by the Council’s housing services department in relation to their housing stock
· The Council would not endorse putting signage up without actually having cameras in the area; that would create a false sense of security for residents and if there was an incident then no CCTV would be able to be used to catch offenders
· Some cameras that have been installed in Gravesend have been repeatedly stolen or vandalised shortly after being installed which is why a feasibility study is carried out beforehand to make sure the location is appropriate
· Cameras were installed along the High Street and along Queen Street covering all major routes in and out of the Town. Even with numerous cameras, it was still difficult to capture clear enough pictures of drug dealing to pursue arrests as it relied on the operator spotting it in time and being able to zoom in to see faces/the drugs/number plates clearly enough to be used as evidence
· Councillors were encouraged to tell their constituents to inform the Police of any information they had that could be useful such as a partial number plate or description of an offender. If they wanted to report anonymously they could do it by contacting Crime Stoppers where their personal information would not be shared
· The community safety award given to local people was given out by the Crime Prevention Panel; at the next meeting the Community Safety Operations Manager agreed to talk to them about bringing the award back to encourage residents to report issues
· The system GSAFE was used by shops and pubs around Town to warn staff of potentially dangerous people that shouldn’t be allowed into their establishments; for example a pub that had kicked out a drunken patron for violent behaviour could warn other pubs nearby. The system was run completely independent of the Council with the work being coordinated externally; the GSAFE representative sits in the CSU
· The CSU carried out a whole range of different work to combat forms of violence including domestic violence including preventative work with boys and young men; the projects described in the report were just a few examples of the work the team dealt with. One of the reasons some of the work was focused solely on women and girls was that the funds were provided externally to support that work by the Home Office’s ‘Violence against Women and Girls Transformation’ fund
· A mobile camera was previously stationed by the Skate Park as it tended to be a hotspot for crime; a permeant camera has now been placed in that area to cover Ordnance Road and the Skate Park however none could be placed in Fort Gardens due to it being a heritage area
In response to Members queries, the Assistant Director (Communities) clarified that the Crime & Disorder Scrutiny Committee scrutinised the Partnership and all of Gravesham Partners work. Whereas, the Community & Leisure Cabinet Committee reviewed the Councils Community Safety responsibilities; there will be a degree of overlap between the two Committees. The Assistant Director (Communities) advised Members that he would take the terms of reference to the next Crime & Disorder Scrutiny Committee to make it clearer for Members; it will be circulated to the Community & Leisure Cabinet Members too.
The Chair expanded on the point informing Members that the Committee dealt with policy and the Council’s role in community safety whereas the Crime & Disorder Scrutiny Committee dealt with the wider partnership role including the CSU, Kent Police and other neighbouring agencies.
Praise was given to the Safer Place Officers and their work in the Town Centre although it was asked whether or not their remit could be expanded to other areas of the Borough.
The Community Safety Operations Manager appreciated the positive feedback and explained that the team were in the middle of recruiting two additional Safer Place Officers who would be mobile and work throughout the Borough.
Members noted the information contained within the report.