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HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland: Local Connections - Policing with the Community


Local Connections - Policing with the Community


3.1 Introduction

In determining a title for this section of the report, 'Community Policing' was avoided because the term clearly means different things from force to force, particularly so between rural and urban models. 'Policing with the Community' better reflects the traditional model of community policing in Scotland and emphasises the important component of engaging with those communities we police.

A number of recommendations in 'Narrowing the Gap' 22 centred around how communities are being policed, with a focus on the opportunities available to narrow the demand gap between public expectation and service delivery.

Recommendation 12 urged:

'that forces afford due status to patrol and community policing as distinctive elements of service delivery'. 23

This Inspection has highlighted the finding, that in terms of Community Policing there is no 'one size fits all' approach. By necessity, forces have adopted different styles and approaches to this area of police work. Different labels and designations are applied to the roles of Community Officers. From Community Beat Officers (CBOs) in Aberdeen and Edinburgh to Community Liaison Officers (CLOs) in Tayside; from Community Officers (COs) in Dumfries and the Borders to Community Police Officers (CPOs) in the Strathclyde Police area; all of these officers have generally the same aims and similar job descriptions.

photoA common concern voiced by community officers during this Inspection was the continuing high level of abstractions from their primary role in the local community. Although a number of forces have introduced abstraction thresholds or other policies to ease this situation, community officers were of the view that they remain an easy 'first port of call' rather than a last resort for covering vacancies elsewhere in the roster, bolstering operational events or responding to reactive demands. Some community officers reported that the situation improved where senior management was visibly seen to be committed to retention, rather than abstraction.

HMIC is conscious of the measures taken by forces to promote the community officer as a specialist. However, efforts in this regard are undermined if the officers involved are required to cancel engagements or cannot be contacted due to late changes in their roster. This contributes to the sense of frustration expressed by community officers during this Inspection, who feel that the true specialist nature of their role is misunderstood and unappreciated by peers, supervisors and senior management. HMIC is satisfied that forces are alive to this challenge and the strategies previously outlined will address this issue in the longer term. Most forces have utilised the recently introduced Special Priority Payments (SPPs) to recognise and acknowledge the specialist nature of community policing in what is, for many a hard to fill post. Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, for example, has identified an SPP category of 'patrol excellence' payable to community and patrol officers who meet the standards and criteria applied. It is too early for HMIC to comment on these worthwhile attempts at enhancing the status of community officers.


Lead Constables: Tayside Police

In administering SPPs, Tayside Police directed most of the available funding towards uniformed operational officers. To enable this, the force also established the post of lead Constable and afforded this status to officers working at uniformed operational level. The post attracts an SPP of 1,250 per year. These officers are flexible in terms of location and deployment in each division and assume responsibility for actively promoting standards of service. They are also viewed as vital to the development of probationary constables, projecting a positive image both inside the organisation and outwardly to the general public. All core aspects of tutoring, in force, will be provided by lead Constables.

Designating officers as lead Constables fulfilled the requirements of PNB guidelines on SPPs and resulted in the creation of 109 positions at an operational beat level to which officers can aspire. The policy also has the effect of retaining experienced officers on front line policing duties.

SPPs for lead Constables will be available to officers with at least five years operational service who are working 'on the beat' across the force area. Interest in the position can be notified by constables to line managers for consideration against published criteria by command teams. The whole process will be supported by annual performance review procedures which will inform decision making in respect of identifying suitable candidates. Lead constables will hold the position for a year subject to review. Officers transferring to other specialist posts will lose their lead constable status.

HMIC is encouraged by this innovative application of priority payments in a clear effort to enhance the status of the front line, uniformed patrol officer. The policy chimes with recommendation 12 of 'Narrowing the Gap' 24 in 'according due status to patrol and community policing'. The full impact of special priority payments was not known at the time of this Inspection but HMIC will monitor the situation during the primary inspection cycle.

3.3 Community Policing

photoIn many forces there is a lack of any active community policing strategy, with many community officers and some middle and senior management unsure as to how this component of the organisation contributes to the force policing plan or to the targets and performance indicators set. In an area where success is much more difficult to define and thus measure, many community officers are being guided towards activities which equate with inputs and outputs rather than towards the outcome focus required by modern policing strategies.

Recent developments in intelligence led policing and the application of the National Intelligence Model (NIM), the introduction of the Scottish Intelligence Database (SID), restorative justice measures, the use of problem solving approaches, especially the potential for joint problem solving presented by Community Planning partnerships and the emergence of local authority warden patrols, identify an urgent and pressing need to clarify the role of the community officer in all of these areas and to better understand what is meant by community policing. HMIC views the developments outlined as an opportunity to redefine the community policing role and develop national strategy in this area.

3.4 Training for Community Police Officers

This considerable list of emerging developments in the wider community safety arena will impact on the role of the modern community officer. Roles of problem solver, mediator, intelligence gatherer and community leader, especially in respect of working with council wardens, means that community officers will need to acquire a new and enhanced skills set. Any national community policing strategy will require to consider the competencies needed to fulfil the person specification. Currently national training for officers performing community policing roles is focused mainly on the four weeks Standard Crime Prevention Course. This was the mainstay of former community involvement personnel and teaches a mix of physical and social crime prevention. Other courses attended by community officers range from CCTV modules to Local Authority Liaison Officers courses. Although the content of these courses is sound, they are peripheral to the core role of a community officer.

Problem solving tools are obviously relevant to the role of a community police officer, but many community officers are not trained in this method. All probationers now attending the Scottish Police College are taught the SECAPRA model. Although a number of forces use this approach, others use alternative models such as CAPRA or SARA and there is a danger of overly complicating this aspect of police work. There is a need for a more consistent and standardised approach to problem solving especially, if this important area is to be extended to partnership working.

Figure 1: Problem Solving Approaches



S - security and safety
E - ethics
C - community
A - acquire and analyse (information)
P - partnerships
R - resources
A - assessment

S - scanning
A - analysis
R - response
A - assessment

Forces are conducting some local training to cover developments such as problem solving and, where appropriate, restorative justice but HMIC is concerned that in terms of available training for community officers there is a need for consistency and a more standardised approach. If we are to be serious about enhancing the role of community officers and recognising the specialist nature of their duties then there is a requirement to conduct a training needs analysis on the role of the modern day community police officer. This work should be carried out in parallel with the development of a national community policing strategy.


HMIC recommends that ACPOS develops a national community policing strategy advocating a more consistent and standardised approach to this role, recognising recent developments in Community Planning, NIM, problem solving, restorative justice and warden schemes.


HMIC recommends that ACPOS conducts a training needs analysis on the role and responsibilities of community police officers, recognising recent developments in Community Planning, NIM, restorative justice, problem solving and warden schemes, in conjunction with the development of a national community policing strategy.

3.5 Problem Solving Approaches

'Narrowing the Gap' 25 was also concerned with how policing priorities come to be established and whether developments in the National Intelligence Model and Problem Solving Policing are making full use of community intelligence. Recommendation 10 of the report defined the challenge:

'That forces examine and develop the opportunities which exist to optimise community intelligence, firstly to provide a foundation for the higher level intelligence framework within NIM and secondly to act as a catalyst for meaningful problem solving within tactical tasking and co-ordinating'. 26

This Inspection was keen to follow up on this area and on the facility offered by NIM and problem solving approaches to ensure that a properly prioritised police response is deployed using the appropriate resource from the range of tactical options available, including foot patrol, community police, CID, traffic or support unit. Interest also focused on how the emerging partnership arrangements under Community Planning were factored into the tasking and co-ordinating process, as well as how the tactical resource deployment linked with the strategic goal setting and community consultation processes.

Despite a number of reported false starts, forces are now developing problem solving approaches as an integral part of NIM. Again approaches vary between Problem Solving Policing, Problem Orientated Policing and forces that utilise the available action templates in NIM to avoid the need for additional processes. Forces who had begun running NIM and problem solving as separate projects have taken steps to merge them together with the problem solving component fully integrated into NIM.

Only one force, Central Scotland Police, reported no formal problem solving element in its policing plan, but used targeted, intelligence led initiatives under the auspices of the force's 'Safer Central' policing philosophy. This model relies upon tactical level tasking and co-ordinating to drive initiatives in response to problems identified. All forces are exploring the potential for joint problem solving which may mean that, in time, the 'policing' element of the titles for POP and PSP can be dropped completely or replaced by 'partnerships' to better reflect developing approaches in this area.

3.6 Community Intelligence

The concept of community intelligence should not be interpreted in sinister terms. Rather it is a practical recognition that partner agencies are in possession of low grade community information relating to the frequency and location of their service demands which would be of value to other partners.

For example, during HMICs recent joint Inspection with the Fire Service Inspectorate on fire-raising, 'Fire: Raising the Standard', 27 it was reported that when the fire service attend reports of schools burning down, calls of this nature were often preceded by four of five calls to the same school reporting bin fires or other more minor occurrences. In terms of drug use, our health board partners can tell us where drugs overdoses are occurring; cleansing and environmental services can tell us where discarded syringes are being recovered. The question then arises, how well does this information fit with what we know about drug dealing activity in the area? When a large group of teenagers are reported hanging about a street corner do the police take their details after they warn them and move them along? What if the location is a known vandalism hot-spot? These are basic examples of low level information which is potentially in possession of the police or our partners and which could contribute to level one of NIM but may never be converted to intelligence.

All forces acknowledged the challenge of capturing, retaining and refining low grade community information and converting it into usable intelligence. Forces have introduced a variety of measures, ranging from the introduction of new forms to capture information at community meetings, through developing stand alone databases to simply instructing officers to complete an intelligence log regardless of how 'low grade' the information might be perceived to be. The first two approaches treat community intelligence as a different data set, whilst the latter puts local intelligence resources under pressure in terms of having to process volume intelligence submissions.

Forces are adapting various methods to capture information from community meetings and partners, to inform the wider corporate planning process. While this will undoubtedly assist in informing local policing plans, it is unlikely that these methods will harness the day to day operational snippets of low grade intelligence that front line practitioners and investigators can rely on. The dangers of separating low level elements from the remainder of the model are obvious. The 'small stuff' often drives or supports the higher end of criminal activity and much of the activity and behaviour considered low level crime and disorder has a considerably higher impact and consequence for local people living in the affected areas.

HMIC is in no doubt that the recently launched Scottish Intelligence Database (SID) should be the single repository for all intelligence. In terms of people and process, there will be issues concerning capacity, capability and the levels of resourcing needed for the conversion of low grade information into meaningful intelligence. HMIC recognises the reasons behind the creation of interim or supplementary databases to support intelligence efforts in the shorter term but would caution against any further developments in this approach, preferring the consistent, standardised model provided by SID that has been successfully adapted to include community intelligence by some forces.


South Lanarkshire Problem Solving Policing Model

Problem Solving has been piloted within the South Lanarkshire Division of Strathclyde Police since October 2002. To date it has been successful in the resolution of numerous community issues and the reduction of incidents, allowing patrol officers more time to deal with community concerns in a more professional manner. The Problem Solving approach has become an integral part of the way the division conducts its business and, along with NIM, provides a model of policing for the area.

As Strathclyde Police continues to develop Problem Solving, NIM and the overall policing model through ongoing project teams, South Lanarkshire Division continues to review its procedures, identifying weaknesses and making adjustments to its processes. A recent review of the South Lanarkshire pilot was carried out, taking into consideration NIM, the Analytical Unit, the Local Intelligence Office and community policing and the following reflects its findings:

3.7.1 Call Handling Unit (CHU)

This has been viewed as a success of the model, dealing with approximately 17%-20% of the division's total incidents. Staffing levels of one sergeant and 12 constables working two shifts has proved to be effective in meeting local needs. Experience has shown that the CHU is principally directed towards supporting the area control room. It does, however, also play an important role in the identification of recurring problems inherent in the problem solving approach adopted.

3.7.2 Problem Solving Unit

The divisional problem solving unit is staffed by an inspector and two constables who monitor command and control incident data linked to area crime profiles, identify recurring problems and collate community information. The unit acts in liaison with local senior management and community inspectors to identify problem areas and progress appropriate interventions and responses by police and partner agencies.

The inspector also oversees and ensures liaison between call handling, crime management, local intelligence officer and the analytical unit, thus presenting a full and accurate picture of the issues affecting the division. Finally, the unit facilitates the link between the police and the division's principal partner, South Lanarkshire Council.

The review has shown that problem solving and the analytical unit will be effective so long as available data is accurate. This requires command and control systems, crime management systems and SID to be used to their full capability and for community information (from community police officers, local councillors and members of the community) to be gathered and analysed.

3.7.3 Information Management

South Lanarkshire Division's use and storage of data is summarised as follows.

3.7.4 Incident Data

Command and control data is currently used to log incidents and to analyse these incidents to identify 'hot spots' and emerging trends. The main areas of concern are that incidents are often reported to the police, but not properly recorded on the system. This gives an inaccurate picture as to the full extent of the problem. Incident logs often do not accurately reflect what the caller is reporting, for example, 'youths causing annoyance' and similar incidents lack sufficient detail, are poorly updated and do not reflect the true extent of the problem.

The South Lanarkshire model remedies these issues by ensuring that officers receiving incident related information from the community should confirm that details are recorded on the command and control system. If the incident is not on the system then a record is created retrospectively. The control room and call handling unit ensure that reported incidents are recorded accurately and fully reflect what the caller reports. Similarly, there is robust monitoring to ensure that incidents are properly and accurately resulted. This responsibility lies with command and control operators and supervisory checks.

3.7.5 Intelligence

The Scottish Intelligence Database (SID) is the only database at divisional level where intelligence should be stored, particularly insofar as the provenance of intelligence is concerned. The use of SID by operational officers, however, has been sporadic. South Lanarkshire division has attempted to overcome this problem by training mentors. This has resulted in more officers making use of the system, especially in regard to intelligence relating to general disorder.

The division recognised that to function effectively, SID generally demands that intelligence is person specific. While this works for criminal intelligence, the same cannot be said for community intelligence, which mainly relates to the prevention of disorder and the maintenance of community safety. To overcome this difficulty, person specific intelligence (whether crime or disorder related) is input into SID in the normal fashion. Non person specific intelligence (mainly community intelligence) is input into the system under three broad searchable headings, namely 'location', 'premises' and/or 'incident type'. It is accepted that this is somewhat 'cumbersome', but the approach is used to good effect by intelligence staff and community police officers. By ensuring that intelligence is recorded in this manner, the analytical unit is able to provide a more accurate picture of current issues and threats.

3.7.6 Community Information

In South Lanarkshire Division, a distinction has been drawn between community intelligence and community information. In very basic terms, this is to ensure the data does not fall between two stools, in that, whilst SID addresses some community intelligence issues and command and control data produces a record of incidents reported to police, there is a gap in respect of the flow of 'general information' received about the community from members of the public, local councillors, community wardens and community groups, etc., and gathered by patrol officers, community officers and community inspectors. This information had been previously recorded on several forms, i.e. councillor meeting forms, community meeting forms, neighbourhood watch forms and school liaison forms.

To overcome this problem and to rationalise the concept of what constitutes 'community information', this information is now recorded on a single document, namely the 'Community Information Report'. This is forwarded to the problem solving unit for collation and ensures that all issues are being taken into account when analysing problems.

3.7.7 Analysis of Information

The crime management system is an invaluable tool, storing information relating to every crime and offence recorded in the division. Analysis of this information is undertaken on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. The data is used in the preparation of tactical assessments, problem profiles and target packages and also to determine weaknesses in gathering intelligence and community information. Analysis of incidents, crimes, crime intelligence and community intelligence/information is carried out by the problem solving unit, the analytical unit and locally by the Local Intelligence Liaison Officer (LILO). In practical terms, a single document is produced on a daily basis by the LILOs for daily and weekly briefing, with the analytical unit providing a monthly tactical assessment for the tasking and co-ordinating group. These documents reflect the main issues of interest to the division.

3.7.8 Partnership Working

The problem solving unit acts as a link between the police, the Council and other partner agencies. Community inspectors continue to have a vital role, but now carry out much of their work in conjunction with the problem solving unit. A protocol exists within South Lanarkshire Council in relation to information sharing, with a standard document now in place to inform of local hot spots and anti-social tenants identified by the police. Similarly, a briefing document is in place to communicate local information received by the Council.

HMIC is encouraged by the growing number of professional analysts in the field of information management. Forces will be rewarded for their investment in this critical area. As capacity for analysis grows, so should the collection process for level one intelligence. Community officers remain something of an untapped resource in this field, with much of their knowledge and information never entering the system and only surfacing through local connections and direct personal contact. The capacity of community officers to interface with partner agencies and share information can also be crucial. If joint problem solving and the proper application of level one intelligence are to be a reality, then community policing strategies will require examination to ensure that these elements are considered.


HMIC recommends that forces review existing community policing strategies to ensure:

  • An integrated approach with Community Planning, in order to maximise the potential for partnership working and a joint approach to problem solving
  • Incorporation of level one NIM and problem solving elements
  • A clear definition of roles and responsibilities.

3.8 Demand Management

In terms of resource allocation and deployment, forces are making huge efforts to match resources to peaks in demand, utilising IT systems to better inform rostering arrangements. A number have changed shift systems completely or have reviewed work patterns to look at more flexible arrangements. Tayside Police, having introduced a variable shift pattern, returned to its previous traditional three shift/four group model after 18 months, on the basis that the new arrangements were not meeting the needs of the force. Fife Constabulary has moved on to new variable shift arrangements, with different patterns being applied in different parts of the force area to better manage local demands. These examples illustrate the level of commitment forces are making to match resources with demands.

Forces are applying Resource Allocation Modelling in an effort to find the correct balance between response officers, community police and specialists. All are attempting to allocate a finite level of resources in ways that best satisfy their policing objectives. There is no perfect version, with differences between demand based and needs-based models. The former relies on historical data for demands on police services, while the latter uses demographic indices, such as population, to anticipate where police services may be required. Forces attempting to move towards needs based models have been frustrated by the unreliability and non availability of suitable demographic data. Fife Constabulary commissioned independent research in this area to assist in developing a more needs-based model. For the time being then, models tend to be demand led, based upon historical reactive data and the discretion and professional judgement of local management.

In terms of community policing, a number of forces expressed a desire to deploy a community officer in every council ward - this being the most practical unit of service delivery, but were unable to do so because of reactive workload demands. In some forces, notably Grampian Police, council wards and beat boundaries are not reflected by the distribution of community policing posts and reviews are underway to establish more meaningful units for resource allocation. The high abstraction rates of community officers (one force reported some community officers spending less than 20% of their time working in their designated areas) will inevitably skew any resource allocation model. HMIC will monitor the complex and challenging area of resource allocation during the primary inspection regime.

All Scottish forces are embarking on call management projects with a view towards reducing the reactive demand workload and allowing non-urgent business to be transacted by telephone, for later follow up by community officers. Forces are at various stages of progress in projects to build call centres, contact centres or virtual call centres. Early indications suggest that the immediate challenge for forces adopting call management is an instant increase in calls (previously abandoned at peak demand periods) of between 20% and 50% depending upon prior take up rates. Clearly, there is a major quality control issue on how the public will respond to telephone policing. Done properly and professionally, an operationally significant amount of calls currently attended by response officers could be factored out of the system, and replaced by an appointment based system for community officers or forensic specialists. Minor reports will be finalised on the telephone, which although a more efficient method, may impact as a perceived loss of service by some reporters. The cultural changes and adjustments in public expectation levels will require a strong citizen and customer focus if they are to be successfully achieved.

3.9 Multi-Tiered Policing

A further element of policing the community, of interest to this Inspection, was the area of multi-tier policing. With the demise of park keepers, bus conductors, school janitors and other quasi-authority figures from society, communities are often left with no other recourse than to turn to the police for what can often be perceived as low-level quality of life issues such as litter, vandalism and graffiti.

The Scottish Executive programme, 'Building Strong, Safe and Attractive Communities', 28 is introducing a number of initiatives to tackle anti-social behaviour. These include the appointment of community wardens in every local authority area in Scotland with effect from April 2004.

With an element of flexibility of deployment open to local authorities and their Community Planning partners in consultation with the local community, the guidance details the various types of warden schemes available:

  • Crime Prevention schemes. These will involve wardens patrolling areas where their visible presence acts as a deterrent and provides reassurance to residents. These schemes, which focus on crime prevention and tackling anti-social behaviour, will require to work closely with local police services to ensure an effective joined-up approach to policing and patrolling at the local level
  • Environmental schemes. These are aimed at improving the look and feel of an area and will also involve local warden patrols
  • Concierge/caretaker schemes. These will usually be attached to housing developments and undertake a range of housing management functions
  • Reparation schemes. These will work in support of the justice system, for example by involvement in community reparation programmes.

3.10 Pilot Community Warden Schemes

A number of pilot warden schemes have been operating in Scotland over the last year. In Edinburgh, the city council has been piloting 'community safety concierges' in Broomhouse and Niddrie Mains. Working within the housing department, the concierges undertake a range of landlord duties, such as noting breaches of tenancy conditions, carrying out estate inspections, monitoring empty properties and undertaking minor repairs. Through patrolling the estates, they also help with crime prevention, observing and reporting low level nuisance and anti-social behaviour and working with the police on crime prevention programmes.

In Renfrewshire, the council has four mobile teams of wardens working in various estates in Paisley and West Johnstone. These were established in response to local concerns about anti-social behaviour and vandalism, highlighted by a citizens' panel. Part of their role is to support the police by observing and reporting incidents, providing information to support police investigations and acting as professional witnesses. They also undertake a variety of environmental tasks, such as co-ordinating graffiti removal and act as link between the community and a range of agencies including the local authority and the police. In Renfrewshire, wardens work in support of the strategic community plan which aims to make the area a safer place to live, work and play. The recently published first annual report showed that the warden scheme had achieved its key objectives with regard to reducing vandalism costs in their area as illustrated at figure 2.

Figure 2 Renfrewshire Council Community Warden Scheme - 4 Pilot Areas


The impact of warden schemes will clearly require a considerable partnership effort from the police to ensure that local efforts are carefully aligned. Opportunities for joint working, particularly in the area of problem solving and intelligence gathering, are obvious. One of the highest areas of impact will be on the role of community officers. The Inspection found that forces were well advanced in the development of protocol guidance in this area and had considerable input to discussions on selecting the deployment areas for wardens.

In the Grampian Police area, Aberdeen City Council has handed control of its council wardens to the force. Although funded by the authority, the wardens will effectively be employed by the police, who will train, equip and direct them based on local policing priorities. At the time of this Inspection, no other forces were planning to incorporate warden schemes into their local policing arrangements to the same extent. Much of Grampian Police's confidence and willingness to embrace warden schemes in this manner is due to the successes achieved by the force's traffic wardens working in an expanded community role. HMIC is encouraged by the approach adopted by Grampian Police, which will ensure that the Aberdeen warden scheme is fully integrated with local policing arrangements and better reflects the community safety priorities of Aberdeen residents.


Grampian Police Traffic Wardens

As featured in 'Narrowing the Gap', 29 ahead of the decriminalisation of parking offences in Aberdeen (March 2003), Grampian Police developed the traffic warden role in support of frontline policing. Although initially developments were centred around vehicle related offences such as speeding, abandoned vehicles and vehicle crime prevention initiatives, there had always been an intention to develop the model further, with a proposed transition to a community based scheme.

'Action Middlefield' was launched on 27 September 2002. The wardens' role and remit was expanded to deal with quality of life and community safety issues, in partnership with their police and council colleagues. The Middlefield area of Aberdeen consists primarily of local authority housing. Main problems reported in the area were vandalism, abandoned cars and youth annoyance. Following high visibility reassurance patrols by a team of four wardens working nine to five, Monday to Friday, over a period of nine months, reported crime in the area fell by 25%. Success in the area is such that local police management no longer consider Middlefield a crime 'hot spot' area.

Following success in Middlefield, wardens were deployed on similar patrols in other areas in the city. Four additional wardens were drafted into the Mile End district, which includes Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, which had a history of parked vehicles being broken into. Again, high visibility patrols targeted at local trends saw a reduction in crimes of this nature.

Grampian Police conducted research 30 into the developed role of the wardens to ascertain public perceptions, assess the impact of the warden patrols and establish further initiatives which could include the warden force. The main conclusions are as follows:

  • The majority of residents would feel confident reporting a crime to a warden
  • Youth annoyance, underage drinking, vandalism, speeding and illegal parking were the main areas identified by residents which they thought could be effectively dealt with by wardens
  • A low level of awareness by residents of the wardens' new role, with confusion over uniform markings retaining the traffic warden badge
  • General consensus amongst residents that wardens could be more effective if they worked evenings and weekends

The research also included a focus group of nine wardens involved in the community role. The main observations included:

  • Wardens felt more empowered and challenged by their new role and felt more closely involved with the community
  • Wardens agreed that awareness of their community role was poor, partly due to issues around the uniform worn
  • Reservations about patrolling during the evening
  • Training needs identified, mainly in the areas of customer care and public speaking (to support attendance at public meetings)

Following the research, a number of recommendations will be acted on by the force. The main issues were identified as:

  • Awareness. Posters carrying pictures of the wardens and contact telephone numbers will be used to raise awareness of the role in the areas patrolled
  • Training. The transition between traditional traffic warden duties and the broader community role requires training and development support
  • Working Hours. Shift patterns are being examined, with options to extend coverage until 2200 hours over seven days
  • Name/Uniform. The force acknowledges that the name and accompanying badges require to be changed, as displaying the 'traffic warden' title continues to confuse the public
  • Relationship with the police. Wardens felt under utilised with potential for a stronger interface

HMIC was pleased to be able to follow up on the success of the Grampian Police traffic wardens in their new public reassurance role. The Grampian model is very similar to the emerging Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) in England and Wales and discussed in more detail later in this report. With Grampian's existing community warden force, and the decision to manage and deploy the council funded wardens in April 2004, the force is making good use of the extended police family concept and, in a Scottish context, is at the forefront of developments in this area.

In considering the extended police family principle and its potential contribution to public reassurance and community safety, the Inspection was keen to examine developments south of the border. Of particular interest was the National Reassurance Agenda and the role of Police Community Support Officers.


Reassurance Style Policing

In every British Crime Survey since 1995, overall crime has fallen. Yet over 70% of the public think that crime has actually risen over the last two years. The conventional thinking both in Britain and America, had been that if crime went down persistently, then peoples' fears would follow and their sense of security would be raised. This has not happened. This divergence of achievement and recognition, 'the reassurance gap', is of serious concern to a police service which ultimately depends on public support for its legitimacy. The reason for this mismatch is that the public's perception of security (how safe they feel!) can be formed by what they regularly see and experience around them. Police successes in volume and serious crime have little impact on this view which recognises incivilities and disorders - misdemeanours that seldom feature in police statistics.

3.12.1 The National Reassurance Project

Reassurance pilot sites have been running in Surrey Police and the Metropolitan Police Service since April 2002. The pilots aim to develop processes and products to support the operational delivery of a reassurance policing style. The Home Office has agreed to support the expansion and funding of the project into a further six English force areas. A project steering group will be chaired by a Home Office minister and will include ACPO representation. The expanded national project is due to be launched across all eight forces 31 during 2004. The project aims to deliver reduced fear of crime for individuals and communities, by tackling incivilities, disorder and environmental streetscape issues through a partnership problem solving approach.

The project has its origins in ACPO's recognition that public reassurance, as an end in itself, has been neglected, due to the mistaken assumption that it would emerge as a consequence of focusing on the core policing objectives of reducing volume and serious crime. In terms of visibility and reassurance, visibility is not enough to provide reassurance to communities. True reassurance will only result from active intervention in community problems, when neighbourhoods can see improvements and sustainable solutions to concerns raised. The work is based upon providing a neighbourhood with a dedicated local police officer in a role that is highly visible, accessible, knowledgeable and locally known.

Reassurance is measured by the use of Public Perception Surveys (featured in Chapter One), community focus groups and the use of environmental audits to quantify both behavioural and environmental problems. Early findings from the pilots indicate that there are real community safety fears over problems of youths gathering, youth disorder, the proliferation of graffiti, abandoned and burnt-out cars, damaged public phones and public buildings, poor lighting, aggressive begging and problems with speeding vehicles and other traffic issues.

The project goal is to prove the concept, that by tackling and dealing effectively with these locally identified concerns, then communities will feel safer and crime generators will be removed. The project aims to deliver a reassurance programme that is systematic, evidence based, intelligence led and has a robust performance framework to measure interventions, impact and outcomes. A supportive communications strategy aims to ensure that success is broadcast to communities, in order to increase their feelings of safety, security and confidence.

3.12.2 Signal Crimes: Surrey Police

As part of their reassurance policing pilot, Surrey Police has developed the concept of signal crimes, in conjunction with the University of Surrey. 32 This relates to how the public attach meaning and interpret the significance of physical behaviour such as graffiti and social behaviour such as youths swearing. Similarly some neighbourhood crimes such as burglary are likely to cause more alarm and discussion than others. From this, a 'signal crime' or 'signal disorder' has been defined as a 'criminal incident, or physical or social disorder, that is interpreted by members of the public as a warning signal about their level of security'.

Some signals will have greater significance than others. A burnt out abandoned car will be a stronger warning signal than an abandoned car. The perceived level of risk can be offset by comfort factors, noticeable elements such as visible police patrols, good street lighting or neighbourhood watch signs. The National Reassurance Programme will test the concept of signal crimes by utilising public perception surveys and environmental audits to identify the environmental and behavioural factors which are negatively impacting on feelings of community safety.

3.12.3 Neighbourhood Teams: Surrey Police

photoWithin Surrey Police, delivery of reassurance policing is driven by neighbourhood teams. This sees a community officer, in Surrey termed a Neighbourhood Specialist Officer (NSO), as leader and co-ordinator of a community team which includes Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and council wardens in a partnership approach to local problem solving. NSOs work with local councils, residents' associations, youth workers and voluntary groups towards the reduction and prevention of crime and disorder in local communities across Surrey. In this model, PCSOs are directed and deployed by the police and empowered to deal with those low level issues which impact on the community's sense of security. PCSOs' core responsibilities include providing visibility and reassurance, and identifying and resolving a range of local problems such as youth nuisance, criminal damage, graffiti and litter.

Surrey Police has obtained additional funding for the implementation of specialist Youth PCSOs, to provide outreach facilities specifically aimed at youth issues. With a strong environmental focus, council wardens complete the neighbourhood team, facilitating residents access to council services. Together, they aim to make people feel safer by identifying interventions that have the greatest impact and by controlling visible signs of disorder or anti-social behaviour in their communities. The Neighbourhood Team's targeted partnership approach has been successful in effectively disrupting and preventing such behaviour.

The Neighbourhood teams are not abstracted from their duties to undertake tasks outwith their recognised roles. The team's commitment is to be:

  • Visible within the neighbourhood
  • Accessible within the neighbourhood
  • Knowledgeable in community information
  • Locally known throughout the neighbourhood
  • Impacting on local concerns.


Police Community Support Officers: West Yorkshire Police

Although not formally part of the National Reassurance Project, West Yorkshire Police's first detachment of 18 PCSOs started duty in Bradford in March 2003. Following three weeks of initial training and a further two weeks with a tutor constable, the PCSOs patrolled the city centre area of Bradford, either singly or in pairs. They were deployed on an intelligence led basis, using the principles of NIM, to deal with anti-social behaviour hotspots or other locations benefiting from a visible uniformed presence, such as bus or railway stations, leisure centres and shopping centres. The PCSOs' role is to work closely with others engaged in policing the city centre, including beat personnel, patrol units, street wardens and city centre wardens. Emphasis was placed on crime prevention, anti-social behaviour, aggressive begging, abandoned cars, graffiti, vandalism and enforcement of local bye-laws, including street drinking. PCSOs also took on a visibility and reassurance, role monitoring retail outlets, late night transport and licensed premises.

3.13.1 PCSO Training

PCSO's training covers how to deal with the following areas:

  • Low-tier crime recording
  • Lost and found property
  • Prostitution issues
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Vandalism
  • Graffiti
  • Begging
  • Licensing offences
  • Abandoned vehicles
  • Crime scene preservation and cordons
  • Intelligence gathering

3.13.2 PCSO Powers

The powers of a PCSO are outlined in the table below:

  • Issue of Fixed Penalty Notices for public nuisance
  • Issue of Fixed Penalty Notice for dog fouling
  • Power to request a name and address for certain categories of fixed penalty offences
  • Power to request a name and address of a person acting in an anti-social manner
  • Power to detain a person for up to thirty minutes pending the arrival of a constable (or to accompany that person to a police station with the person's agreement)
  • Power to use reasonable force to detain a person or prevent them from making off
  • Power to request a person to stop drinking in a designated public area and to surrender open containers of alcohol
  • Power to confiscate alcohol from young persons
  • Power to confiscate cigarettes and tobacco products from young people
  • Power of entry to save life or limb, or to prevent serious damage to property
  • Power to seize vehicles used to cause alarm and distress
  • Power to require the removal of abandoned vehicles
  • Power to stop vehicles for the purpose of a road check; and
  • Power to maintain and enforce a cordoned area established under terrorism legislation

In addition, West Yorkshire Police PCSOs are appointed as traffic wardens, to allow them to control traffic outside of the powers previously outlined. All PCSOs have been trained in open hand skills and are issued with stab resistant vests and CS spray. They are trained only to resort to force in exceptional circumstances. Policy allows PCSOs to be deployed to any incident covered by their training. Only in exceptional circumstances should they be deployed to incidents where it can be anticipated that they will be required to use their powers of detention, such as a shoplifter being detained, or in cases where there is a strong likelihood of facing violence, such as a live public order incident. In such situations the incident log will reflect why a deployment decision was made contrary to these guidelines. Nor are PCSOs allowed to be deployed on duties inside police stations, as their primary role is to provide the public with a high visibility patrol presence.

3.13.3 Bradford Outcome

An evaluation of the impact of PCSOs working in Bradford city centre, comparing the three months of June to August 2003 against the same period in the previous year, suggested that the scheme had contributed to an overall reduction in crime, as shown at Figure 3 below. The 35% increase in assaults was attributed to changes in recording criteria in the National Crime Recording Standard.

Figure 3 Bradford City Centre Crime and Incident Comparison


3.14 Reassurance Policing in a Scottish Context

The reassurance agenda seems to be an attempt at rediscovering a traditional model of community policing by engagement with people in communities. At the heart of this is the very seductive idea of giving the public a say in the control of their neighbourhood; policing with the community. Perception monitors and environmental audits are effective tools in prioritising and confronting the behavioural and environmental factors which make local people feel insecure or unsafe. Every force in Scotland has embraced the concept of reassurance as a key element of their policing plans, but each faces the challenge of balancing response demands against their desire to expand community policing. A critical element of the reassurance agenda is that visibility in itself is not seen as providing reassurance. Rather, reassurance will only be achieved when the community sees active interventions by the agencies involved and sustainable outcomes which improve and maintain their sense of order, safety and wellbeing. The success elsewhere of extending the police family within a wider reassurance policing style suggests that police wardens, as well as police officers, can contribute to community safety.

Pivotal to the reassurance programme south of the border, is the 'mixed economy of policing' concept and the notion of an extended police family. This new wave of police auxiliaries has quickly become established, to the extent that we have already seen some of the London boroughs 'buying' additional numbers of PCSOs. This has been achieved by funding additional recruitment through the Metropolitan Police Service, bringing the total number of PCSOs in London to around eight hundred (at the time of writing). Now working effectively with both their police officer and council warden counterparts across England, police community wardens are a reality. The Inspection team spoke to many officers, at all ranks of the service, who conceded that their previously held scepticism about wardens had been dramatically altered in the light of experience. Perhaps, not surprisingly some fears were expressed about future police numbers and threats to funding, with some senior commentators suspicious that the whole reassurance agenda was a 'Trojan horse', set to exchange police numbers for warden numbers over time.

With the successful evolution of traffic wardens into community wardens, developments in Grampian Police, mean that Scotland has already witnessed the potential contribution of auxiliary community patrols to community safety. HMIC is aware that other chief officers in Scotland are monitoring the Grampian Police developments, with a view to expanding the role of their own traffic warden workforces. Grampian's decision to deploy the local authority wardens from April 2004, means that the force will have a more integrated and extended community patrol service than will its counterparts. The time is right for the Scottish police service to look closely at exploiting the potential opportunities and benefits of police community warden schemes in delivering reassurance style policing, commensurate with the need to sustain realistic operational police strengths.


HMIC recommends that forces exploit the opportunities presented by warden schemes to engage with communities and assist in the delivery of a public reassurance agenda.