Council services by letter

Agenda item


Community Safety Strategic Assessment 2019

Report of the Divisional Director, Strategic Commissioning


The Committee considered a report of the Divisional Director, Strategic Commissioning, which set out the Strategic Assessment, which was an annual review of the patterns of crime and anti-social behaviour, thereby fulfilling partnership responsibility under relevant sections of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.  The findings of the Review would help inform the annual refresh of the Harrow’s Community Safety and Violence, Vulnerability and Exploitation Strategy.


Members asked the following questions and received the following responses.


·                     To what extent did social media have an impact of the rising fear of crime?


The Acting Borough Commander stated that this was difficult to assess.  Social media could be a tool for both good and bad.  Often stories of crimes were circulated without any context and could lead to a fear of crime.


·                     Had there been an increase in hate crimes, for example, Islamophobia?


The Acting Borough Commander advised that there had been an increase in the reporting of these types of crimes.


·                     What were the implications of the MOPAC funding for Harrow for 2019-2021?


An officer advised that there would be a slight reduction in funds in the later period which would need to be reflected in both the strategy and the delivery plan.  The Council was in the process of accessing funding streams in related areas and had recently been awarded funding from MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) for a community engagement and cohesion project which would impact on community safety.


·                     The data in the report related to 2017/18 period and had been previously reviewed by Members.  Members would prefer to see the most up-to-date information in future reports.


The officer advised that the report had been populated with data available at the end of December 2018 as there was a 3-month delay in receiving the verified published data.  He pointed out that there were some typographical errors in the report which he apologised for.


·                     Should the header on page 51 state 2017 or 2018?  There were a number of spelling errors throughout the report.


The officer advised that the header was incorrect and should state 2018.  However, the data included was accurate.


The Chair expressed his disappointment in the lack of accuracy and the errors in the officer report.


·                     A Member made the point that because Harrow was considered to be a relatively safe borough, a large proportion of policing resources had been moved from Harrow to other boroughs.  For example, in his Ward, Kenton West, there were no PCSOs allocated. 


·                     How were targeted burglaries dealt with?


An officer advised that data regarding aggravated burglaries or targeted burglaries was not disaggregated from the overall data relating to burglaries.  He added that overall, the data showed that the number of burglaries had reduced.


·                     Different communities were targeted by criminals for different reasons.  Was there any data regarding this available?


The Acting Borough Commander undertook to look into the matter and feedback to the Committee.


·                     Residents wanted to know where the burglary hot-spots in the borough were.  Burglary was increasingly classed as low priority.  Often victims of burglary did not receive an immediate response from police and therefore some residents felt it was not worth reporting these to the police.  The same went for ASBOs (Anti social behaviour orders).  Was this lack of action by police due to resourcing and time pressures?


The Acting Borough Commander advised that the number of burglaries and other crimes were reducing and continued to reduce.  Although the data in the report covered the period up to December 2018, it did not include the latest figures.  He added that since the implementation of the BCU model (Basic Command Units), of which there were 12 covering London, response times in Harrow had fallen slightly.  Nevertheless, there were advantages and positives coming out of the new BCU model, and risk was being managed differently.


·                     With regard to the under-reporting of Hate crime, specifically Islamophobic ones – were there any additional measures in place for Ramadan which would begin in May 2019?


The Acting Borough Commander advised that there were bespoke policing plans for large events, for example, football matches, bonfire night etc.  However, past data indicated that hate crimes against particular faith groups did not increase during religious festivals.


·                     How would the Assessment document feed into the Strategy?  What were the principal areas of concern and how would these feed into the Strategy document?


The Acting Borough Commander stated that violent crime was the most important area of concern.


The Portfolio Holder for Community Cohesion and Crime stated that it was important for both the Council and the Police to build relationships and trust with the community, to be better informed by keeping abreast of feedback from residents regarding the issue of crime and anti-social behaviour and to respond accordingly.


·                     Residents had indicated that it was increasingly difficult for them to report crimes to the Police via the 101 non-emergency number.    The Member gave a personal example where the victim of a crime had been told that the Police would not be able to assist her unless she was able to locate corroborating CCTV images or witnesses.


·                     Was it true that victims of non violent crimes were being asked to help solve their cases, for example, being asked to find CCTV footage of the incident or to obtain verifying statements from neighbours and witnesses?  Was this official Police policy?


·                     What was being done to tackle the increase in sexual crimes?


The Acting Borough Commander stated that individuals could report crimes using the 999 emergency number, the 101 non-emergency number or via the website.  Unfortunately, there was no protocol for calling back those who rang the 101 number and hung up if their call was not answered immediately or were held in a queue (although such a protocol was in place for those who rang the 999 emergency number).  He added that DWO’s (dedicated Ward Officer) had been instructed to liaise with and update their local Ward Councillors about local issues every two weeks.  He added that officers were obliged to prioritise violent crime above non-violent ones and had to be smarter with the use of available resources.  Officers would advise victims of crime to have realistic expectations in cases where there were no corroborating CCTV images or witnesses available.  However, it was not official Police policy to expect victims to chase up CCTV or interview witnesses.


He added that the BCU model meant that Harrow now had in-house, dedicated specialist officers and specialist teams which dispensed with the need for farming out cases to specialist units elsewhere.  For example, there was a dedicated team dealing with sex crimes and another dealing with violent crimes and therefore the service provision was more joined up which meant improved response and reaction times.


There was Member comment on the data and statistics that it would be helpful for comparison if they could all be for the same periods.  There was officer comment that the periods for the table at page 51 on change in the level of crime should read 2017 and 2018, not 2016 and 2017.


RESOLVED:  That the report be noted.

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