Protecting Communities from Serious Crime
Serious crime is an issue that blights many of our urban and rural communities. Dealing in drugs, weapons, fake cigarettes and booze are all part of a growing concern within policing. We have recently seen reports of gangs using children as young as seven to carry drugs for payment. The term county lines, where city based gangs try to move into new areas to deal, has become synonymous with trapping young people into a cycle of criminality, fear and addiction.
Over the last 12 months we have been involved in two programmes aimed at enabling and empowering communities to help protect vulnerable people from being drawn into a life of criminal misery. The programmes have taken place in Ringland and Alway in Gwent and the Speke and Litherland communities of Merseyside.
The programmes were similar in both force areas in that they wanted to use strengths-based techniques to engage with communities and help to develop programmes and projects that would connect them to partner agencies and create a better relationship with the neighbourhood policing teams in all areas.
The focus was on training and supporting teams, including active citizens, in all areas in the World Café and Participatory Budgeting programmes. In additions, one of the areas accessed our community coaching programme and we undertook a festival of learning to ensure that we captured the thoughts of people and how they would use their learning in the future.
The key facts from both events are shown below
- A total of 115 attended two World Cafes and shared their experiences and insights in relation to serous and organised crime
- A total of 40 members of the community helped neighbourhood police teams and partners in planning and delivering three Participatory Budgeting events
- A total of 600 people attended the three PB events
- A total of 77 ids were received from groups who wished to help make their communities safer
- The 77 bids totalled £149,000
- A total of 35 projects were successful across the three areas
So what does this mean for the wider community?
- Well first of all, there are now there are now over 600 people across the three areas who know that it possible to work together to break the cycle of serious and organised crime. There are statutory and voluntary groups as well as private associations who are also willing to help.
- Key partners in two of the areas were housing associations. Housing associations have a vested in interest in knowing what is happening in their communities and strengths based events such as World Cafes and PB programmes are ideal ways of doing this
- The networks that spread across the communities may be immeasurable. At all events we heard of groups and individuals asking about other groups and individuals, sharing assets, ideas and a passion to make their communities safer
- There was a tangible increase in the level of support for the neighbourhood policing teams in all areas and for partners in two out of the three
- There was a clear desire for communities to have an increased involvement with police and partners and a willingness to play a part in improving the health and safety of their areas
- There was an acknowledgment from police and partners that the strengths-based events had opened doors and made connections that they may have otherwise missed
- There was a clear desire for people to share their experiences and insights into serious and organised crime
- All areas have built on their success and have continued to work with the communities that helped plan and deliver the strengths-based events – thereby building social capital and tapping into the assets of the community
None of the above would have been accomplished with the leadership of people who saw the potential of working with citizens to develop strengths based events, giving communities an opportunity to be listened to and enabling them to play a part in developing solutions to the effects of crime that blight their areas.
None of the above would have been accomplished without positive and committed groups of people who were willing to give their time and take on the responsibility helping to plan and deliver the World Café and PB events.
Finally, the key to making such events successful is the experience and knowledge of my colleagues in MutualGain. Our role is to train, guide and facilitate all of those on our programmes. We continue to support them and learn with them even now.
There is a quote at the end of one of the films on our web site where the person being interviewed says ‘if you are thinking of planning an event, get some expert advice.’ Well, that is our role. Experience as well as knowledge is a must have when empowering communities to deal with issues relating serious and organised crime, but that advice will go a long way to ensuring that your programme is successful.
Written by Dr Andrew Fisher