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Speke Up – Tackling Serious and Organised Crime Through Strengths Based Engagement in Speke Merseyside

“There is evidence that suggests a strong correlation between low social capital and high levels of crime and disorder. High social capital can ensure the reinforcement of positive standards through the provision of role models, whereas in areas of low social capital young people will often create their own in the form of gangs”.
Robert Putnam1

Recent headlines in relation to serious violence, reduction in the number of police officers and the shifting roles of those who undertake a neighbourhood policing function have resulted in both police and public concern. As communities live with the impact of increased drugs markets and the associated county lines behaviours, the sexual and criminal exploitation of some of our most vulnerable communities, the seemingly out of control social media provoking negative social norms, and the knife and gun crime that appears to be on the rise, the police appear to spend their time adopting enforcement activities and other reactive measures designed to have an impact on issues that fall under the larger banner of serious and organised crime.

While there is a lot of postulating and debate about the number of arrests and seizures of drugs, weapons and money, there are few officers who support or promote the idea that communities can play a meaningful role in preventing crime and protecting the most vulnerable in our communities. Community engagement in policing is often delivered as roadshows, fun days or coffee with a copper style events, and the obligatory call from Chiefs that ‘someone out there knows who did this – we call on them to come forward’ is often said knowing that people are scared to come forward and/or do not trust those in power to help. Community owned solutions created through equal contribution, well facilitated dialogue, and empowered communities are unusual, rather than the norm, but they are at the heart of any positive change to society that we are likely to see. We often hear that we cannot arrest our way out of this, and youth clubs will not solve the ills of all in society. We need a different relationship with all, and we need to adopt different engagement techniques to create those relationships.

Among the five sites that the Home Office has supported to explore this issue is Speke in Merseyside. Speke sits on the edge of Merseyside bordering with Halton in Cheshire. It is the home of the Jaguar/Ford factory and Liverpool John Lennon Airport and has a sprawling 1950’s built housing estate that was designed as a satellite town for Liverpool and served to provide a workforce for many long gone factories.

Like many large housing estates, the years have taken its toll. Gone are the employment opportunities that included the famed Liverpool Docks, and instead they are replaced by increasing levels of poverty, crime and anti social behavior.

Many of the people in Speke have lived there all of their lives and the older generations remark on the notable decline of the area and the increase in the threat, fear, and reality of crime. Yet, as with all communities there is a palpable community spirit that has now been untapped and galvanized through the recent work that agencies and communities have undertaken in Speke.

First, they held the Speke Up World Café event to start their new relationship and then strengthened it through the recent Speke Up Participatory Budgeting (PB) event (held on Saturday 9th March 2019).

The World Café was held in late 2018 to ascertain the views, experiences and insights in relation to crime from those who live in the area. The data from the World Café, given the title of Speke Up, was analysed to provide the themes for applications for a share of the £26,000 on offer from Proceeds of Crime Act seizures.