Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Minor victory in war on jargon - Bigger victory on crime reporting

It is timely that the BBC is reporting a crackdown on the use of jargon in local authorities, as there was a minor victory for common sense at the Strategy and Resources scrutiny committee on Monday. Whilst considering the future role of the police presentations and priority setting at Area committees (one part of these committees that is working reasonably well), we were asked to approve the following as an 'area for development':

"Some confusion has been highlighted in relation to the name Safer Neighbourhoods since it changed from Neighbourhood Policing. A standard introduction to the agenda item by the Chair of each Committee to explain the item will help ensure context to the presentation delivered."

The name "safer communities" in this context is meant to be more reflective of the partnership between the police and Council, but in reality nobody who isn't intimate with local authority speak has got the slightest idea what it means. So I proposed that we simply replace the above paragraph as an area for development with the simple proposal to change the name back to neighbourhood policing! And remarkably, the committee and leader agreed this change to the recommendations. 

More significantly, the committee agreed to my request to add a further area for development, namely to look at how crime and incidents of anti-social behaviour are recorded, to ensure all crimes and incidents are recorded to ensure they are taken into account when setting police priorities, and to allow Councillors to feed back the response (or lack of) to each incident that is brought to our attention. In short, I want to see zero tolerance policing, where every incident is recorded, analysed, and resources targetted appropriately.

There has been huge progress made in neighbourhood policing over the last few years - which I put down to two factors, the presence of Police Community Support Officers who provide a very visible presence on the streets (I frequently see our Coleridge PCSOs out on their bikes or on foot), and the opportunity for politicians at a local level to take part in the process, where I think the main benefit is not that we can set priorities for neighbourhood policing (which is ostensibly the aim of our involvement), but because we now have the opportunity to scrutinise the actions of the police, and the way in which they are responding to local problems. Roll on the next Conservative government which is planning to further this approach and give local people much more power of the type I have been fighting for - they have pledged to "make the police accountable to the people they serve through directly elected commissioners, crime maps and quarterly beat meetings".

Outside the realm of Council meetings, my colleague on Coleridge Conservatives Andy Bower has been doing sterling work chasing up the many incidents of graffiti particularly along Radegund Road and Davy Road. One of the main areas of graffiti was cleaned off very promptly (compare the picture below from last night with this two days ago) but there are still significant problems, and we are trying to get all these incidents recorded as crimes and persuade the police to take them seriously.

No comments: