Reassurance policing: an evaluation of the local management of community safety

Crime and communities

Reassurance policing: an evaluation of the local management of
community safety
Reassurance policing: an evaluation of the local management of
community safety

This research report contains the results of an evaluation into a
reassurance policing project, carried out in two socially deprived areas of
Milton Keynes.

Title: Reassurance policing: an evaluation of the local management of community safety

Author: Lawrence SingerĀ 
Series: Home Office Research Study 288
Date published: November 2004
Number of pages: 128

The nature of reassurance policing was addressed through examination of 4 key strands of reassurance:

  • public engagement

  • feelings of safety and security

  • satisfaction with the policing provided

  • public confidence in the policing expected.

Data was collected over a 2-year period from December 2001 to November 2003 using a variety of research methods so that the findings from one source could be checked against those from another. A
the start of the project, 605 residents from 2 estates were surveyed about the 4
key strands of reassurance. A follow-up survey was then carried out in order to analyse the effects of the project.

Overall, a number of modest rather than spectacular improvements were recorded indicative of the challenge presented by the LMCS.

Public Engagement

LMCS conceived and operated their public engagement based on the view that it was equally important to improve engagement from as well as with residents. The main findings were as follows:

  • The co-production of community safety between estate residents and policing is constrained by socio-economic and housing factors.

  • Nevertheless, a small rise in collective efficacy/social capital was achieved.

  • Although residents’ sense of belonging and trust on the estates showed no improvement, there was a 6% point increase in participation.

  • Facilitating engagement from residents was found to be closely related to what is described in the evaluation as a pyramid of participation.

  • There was an improvement in public engagement especially in relation to the introduction of Area Beat Officers (ABOs) serving the parishes and their estates. For example, there was an 11% point rise in the proportion of residents reporting that they saw an officer walking in their neighbourhood.

Safety and Security

Crime and the fear of crime remained of major relevance to residents. The main findings were as follows:

  • There were significant reductions in worry about becoming a victim of burglary, sexual assault, physical assault, and being attacked due to skin colour, ethnicity or religion.

  • The most fearful group identified was female residents.

  • There was an 18% point decline in the amount of minority ethnic communities that feared being attacked due to their skin colour, ethnicity, or religion.

  • The results relating to improvements in physical and social disorders were more mixed. Moderate improvements were noted in relation to graffiti whereas the problem of litter and rubbish was thought to have reduced.

  • Problems to do with social disorders such as drugs, drunkenness and teenagers hanging around were found to be less of a problem for residents.

  • Assessment of the connection between the various improvements recorded and the action taken by Local Management of Community Safety (LMCS) suggests that success to date is not down to one single tactic. It is down to the projects versatile policing framework that included active cooperation and collaboration between the police, statutory agencies and the local residents and their representatives.

Satisfaction and confidence

The evaluation of satisfaction and confidence suggested positive and occasionally negative results. The main findings were as follows:

  • The treatment of victims by the police improved by 5% points. The police were rated highly for their attentiveness, responsiveness, competence and behaviour towards the victim.

  • There were 3 main problems with the performance of the Area Beat Officers (ABOs) role:

    • the inadequate supervision received by ABOs

    • their low status relative to other roles in the force

    • the inadequacy of current performance measures.

  • Residents were unsatisfied with the single non-emergency police number because of:

    • the time it took and cost to get through to the right person

    • the service was not local and knowledgeable about the area

    • it was difficult to remember the 6-digit number.

  • The introduction of ABOs met residents’ expectations of high visibility policing and helped to build a firm foundation for increasing public confidence.

  • The residents’ assessment of how well the ABOs and PCCSOs performed their most important jobs was mildly rather than strongly positive. However, when the combined efforts of LMCS were assessed a more positive response was given.

Partnership and partnering

The practical lessons learned from the evaluation of managing community safety locally are summarised in 3 main points. Taken together they provide a basis for developing a model of effective practice.

1. The challenge of effective partnership endeavour is less about knowing what to do than how to do it. A case of ‘how works’ rather than ‘what works’.

2. A vital ingredient missing from various recipes of good practice has been partnering and the cultural component. This is the difference between legally prescribed partnerships and voluntarily agreed partnering characterised by high levels of cooperation and trust.

3. Four cornerstones of successful partnership and partnering were observed in LMCS:

  • comprehension (inclusion, information and interpretation)

  • commitment (passion, perseverance, and proportionality)

  • coordination (plans, programmes and project management)

  • capacity (staff, skills and sustainability).

Last update: 09 November 2004

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