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Paper 10 -  16 July 2004 Meeting

ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES

16 July 2004

ACCREDITED COMMUNITY SAFETY OFFICERS

Report by the Director of Property, Business and Regulatory, Hampshire County Council

________________________________________________________________________

RECOMMENDATIONS

It is recommended that

(1) The scheme is called the Community Safety Service;

(2) The service is granted the powers detailed in Annex 2 (pdf) and, subject to approval by the Chief Constable, those powers detailed in paragraph 16;

(3) the service is piloted in four District Council areas, to be finalised after further discussions with Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRPs), the Police and District Councils;

(4) Once the service is established deployment is based on information from CDRPs, Task Co-ordination Groups (TCGs) and major areas of complaint; and

(5) After the service is established it joins the Ambulance Service’s network of providers of automatic defibrillators to the side of victims.
________________________________________________________________________

SUMMARY

This report follows that to Hampshire County Council Cabinet on 27 April 2004 after the decision to introduce an Accredited Community Safety Officer (ACSO) scheme. It outlines the progress made on the following issues:

ˇ Financial
ˇ
Recruitment
ˇ
Consultation
ˇ
Links with Police
ˇ
Links within the County Council
ˇ
Powers, Structure and Legal Issues
ˇ
Public relations and customer service
ˇ
Success factors

FINANCIAL

1. The budgetary position for this scheme allows for frontline ACSOs (including 4 Team Leaders), plus a manager and admin post. The annual running costs are £1.1m, rising over time due to increments. In 2005/06 and subsequent years there will be an overspend from the allocated £1m. However, as the first year costs are expected to be £720k the underspend could be carried forward to make good the over commitment in the following two years. Alternatively, if the costs are to be kept within the allotted £1m, the number of officers would need to be reduced from 34 to 30. The costs are still being refined as the aim is to have an all-inclusive salary to avoid the bureaucracy of claiming allowances for unsocial hours. Personnel are still working on this issue and for the time being an extra 8% has been built into the budget projections to allow for it. This amount is based on the experience of the ACSO scheme in Southampton City Council. Additional expenditure on office accommodation will not be incurred, as existing Regulatory Services offices will be used as ‘drop-in’ facilities.

RECRUITMENT

2. Job descriptions, job information questionnaires and role profiles have all been completed and submitted to Central Personnel for evaluation. Basic salaries have been set but, as stated above, work continues on the issue of an ‘allowance’ for the work conditions ie unsocial hours. The County Council’s advertising agency, Bartlett Scott Edgar, has been briefed on the basis that the recruitment phase is also part of the public relations exercise. The campaign they produced has been discussed with Corporate Communications and is currently being developed into a long-term strategy.

3. In light of consultation with the Police and Southampton City Council it was decided to advertise the manager’s job rather than second or appoint someone from within the Trading Standards Service. It was felt that as this is a key post the market should be tested to attract a wider range of applicants and, ideally, a person with experience of a similar scheme or community policing. The post was advertised in the main Hampshire newspapers and specialist websites on 17 June. Interviews are being held on 15 and 16 July. The start date will depend on the notice period of the successful candidate.

4. The team leader and officer posts were advertised on 24 June and arrangements are in place to conduct an assessment centre on 27/28 July using material from the Metropolitan police. Short listed candidates will then be interviewed on 9 or 10 August, following which references and an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check will be made (as required by the accreditation scheme). This will take at least two weeks and it is likely that formal job offers will not be able to be made until late August/early September. Officers should then start early October. Training is expected to take four to six weeks, with some work shadowing in Southampton and with District wardens and the police. The officers should therefore be actively enforcing their new role on the streets in early to mid November.

CONSULTATION

5. As proposed in the April report to Cabinet, Regulatory Services has been in consultation with the District Councils. A number of them have been visited individually and they were all invited to a special forum, together with representatives from the eleven Crime Reduction and Disorder Partnerships (CDRPs – known in Hampshire as Community Safety Partnerships). Fareham and New Forest are considering introducing similar ACSO schemes while others already have established neighbourhood warden schemes – notably Basingstoke and Test Valley. Wardens do not have any enforcement role but are said to have been successful in reducing anti-social behaviour through community working and being a visible deterrent. Others are planning to introduce wardens, while some Districts are not sure about their future plans. A summary of the position in the Districts is attached as Annex 1 (pdf).

6. At individual meetings with Districts, and the forum held for the CDRPs and Districts on 14 June, a number of officers raised concerns over the lack of consultation on the proposed scheme. There is anxiety over how the county scheme will fit into District schemes and the potential for confusion over the varying roles in the eyes of the public. Test Valley’s Community Safety manager suggested that ACSOs operating in the areas covered by their wardens would undo all the good work they have done. However, he felt there was a role in the town centres of Andover and Romsey as their wardens operate on estates. It was also suggested both by the New Forest and Test Valley that the County Council were rushing through the proposals and should delay implementing the scheme until it had consulted through the statutory CDRPs and Local Strategic Partnerships. There was some support for this view from other Districts and Hampshire Neighbourhood Watch. Senior officers from Regulatory Services responded to this by offering to visit all the CDRPs to explain the proposals. However, it was made clear that they would continue with the authority’s plans to have the service in place by October. It should be noted that the CDRPs are currently undertaking their three yearly crime audit and the results in the autumn will assist in deciding the operational priorities of the ACSOs.

7. Despite the issue of consultation all Districts are generally very positive about additional resources for community safety, and recognise that we need to work together. Even so there was some doubt expressed about the effectiveness of ACSOs, given their limited powers. They were also anxious to know how work would be prioritised given the limited number of officers for a county the size of Hampshire. It was agreed that the local knowledge of neighbourhood wardens would be invaluable to the County Council’s ACSOs. It is also vital to the success of the County Council scheme that it presents a consist approach to that of ACSOs planned in Fareham and the New Forest. Most Districts with schemes are keen to work in partnership in varying forms eg with our ACSOs operating in different geographic areas to their wardens, joint working, acting as professional witnesses in cases of breaches of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) etc. Havant, Gosport and East Hampshire are keen to have deployment in their areas while the New Forest see them as ‘reinforcements’ to their own wardens. Other Districts without wardens are likely to be keen to have ACSOs operating in their areas.

8. Each CDRP will have an ASBO co-ordinating officer funded by the Home Office for two years. This will be a key person for the ACSO Manager and Team Leaders to link with in carrying out their duties. It should also be noted that Housing Associations that are Registered Social Landlords (RSLs), are also legally entitled to apply for ASBOs against problem tenants. It is understood that there are over 200 Housing Associations in Hampshire. Again the ACSO Manager and Team Leaders will need to liase with these agencies.

9. During the consultation process the Hampshire and IoW Ambulance Service requested that we consider using the ACSOs as part of a network being developed to respond to high sudden cardiac (heart attack) related incidents. The Ambulance Service is working with the Fire & Rescue Service, security organisations in shopping centres etc. with the aim of rapidly getting light weight automatic defibrillators rapidly to the side of victims. Although they recognise this is not related to enforcement they believe that it would be beneficial in promoting some of the softer skills that might be provided by our officers. This is a development that could be considered once the service has been operating for 6 months. It would provide a very useful service, in particular for the elderly, and would be an excellent public relations opportunity for the County Council.

LINKS WITH THE HAMPSHIRE CONSTABULARY

10. A high level of co-operation has been received from Hampshire Constabulary, in particular Inspector Rawson who has responsibility for co-ordinating community safety schemes across the county. The Chief Constable currently meets with Southampton City Council on a 6 monthly basis to discuss their scheme and a similar approach would be helpful for the County Council. The police will be responsible for the accreditation of individual ACSOs on receipt of proof that they have received sufficient training on legal and health and safety issues. As part of the accreditation process the police will carry out ‘enhanced’ CRB checks, which covers not only the background of the individual but also their family and friends. The police will also advise on authorisations, ID cards and uniforms. Although ACSOs are not allowed to appear identical to police officers, following the precedent set by Southampton it is an option to have a very close resemblance. The main difference is a blue shirt instead of a white one.

11. During the consultation process with the Districts and the police it became clear that links to operational police divisions within Hampshire, known as Basic Command Units (BCUs), are a key to the deployment of the ACSOs. Every fortnight, in each BCU, a meeting attended by local District Community Safety Managers considers issues and events arising over the previous two weeks. The meetings, known as Task and Co-ordination Groups (TSGs), then decide the appropriate priority and response. The TCGs are covered by the Official Secrets Act as frequently highly sensitive information is discussed eg the identity and location of convicted paedophiles who have moved into the area. In the agreed intelligence led approach to the deployment of ACSOs the TCGs would be the primary source of information and prioritising areas of work. The police have agreed to our attendance at these meetings and Inspector Rawson will facilitate this, with the Team Leaders and the Manager fulfilling this role.

12. The police inspectors who attended the forum welcomed the new service and stated that trouble spots in Hampshire were already well known. In their opinion there was no need for the county’s service to be led by complaints from the public. This should obviate the need for an out hours contact centre for the public, particularly as promoting such a service is likely to increase public expectation that could not be met. This is due the relatively small number of officers for a large county, particularly as operational units will be further limited due to working in pairs and on a seven-day shift basis. It is suggested that calls be directed through the normal Regulatory Services Advice line during office hours with the public using the normal police non-emergency 0845 line at other times. This will ensure that the police maintain a record of anti-social incidents. The alternative would be to have two ACSOs staffing phone lines during the evening and deciding on which incidents the officers on the ground should respond to. This would suggest to the public that the ACSOs are an emergency service and militate against the decision to have an intelligence led approach.

13. The police are currently working on a protocol with Southampton City Council to clarify the division of work between them. This will then be adopted by the County Council and across the force area. It is worth noting that all the advice received during the consultation process is that ACSOs should not get involved in the night time economy as they do not have the powers, training or back-up to deal with potentially violent situations. Home Office guidance indicates that it is not appropriate for ACSOs to deal people who are drunk unless police back-up is on hand.

LINKS WITHIN HAMPSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL

14. All Departments were invited to the consultation forum and links have been formed with Legal Services and tenuously with Social Services, Environment and Recreation and Heritage. Further work will need to be done before the service is in place to build up contacts and awareness of how the service can assist across the authority. This will be particularly important in relation to Youth Services, Social Services and Education Welfare Officers as far as young people are concerned. Joint working with the latter officers will be essential if the ACSOs are to have a role regarding truancy (see Powers below). Senior officers from Regulatory Services plan to visit all known relevant services with the authority. Legal Services are currently working with District authorities regarding ASBOs. It is understood that a report is being prepared regarding the capacity of that service to deal with ASBOs. This is especially relevant to situations involving County Council properties eg requests from headteachers for orders to be made in relation to disruptive pupils. If the authority appoints an ASBO co-ordinator then this will be a key link to the ACSOs.

POWERS, STRUCTURE AND OPERATIONAL ISSUES

15.It is recommended that the scheme is called the ‘Community Safety Service’ and officers are granted all the powers listed in the April report with the following exceptions:

ˇ dog fouling (90% of Hampshire is controlled by District dog wardens)
ˇ
power to stop vehicles for emissions testing (aimed at Vehicle Inspectors)
ˇ
power to control traffic for purposes of escorting exceptional loads (primarily a police role)
ˇ
and, subject to views from Education, the power to issue fixed penalty notices (FPNs) for failure to secure regular attendance at school of a registered pupil (this is likely to be the function of Education Welfare officers).

This will enable officers to deal with more high impact issues and concentrate on anti-social behaviour elements. A list of the recommended powers is attached at Annex 2.

15. No service in the County Council carry out work involving fixed penalty notices and procedures for issuing them; a back-office system for payment; legal procedures for non-payment and contested cases will need to be devised. Also stationery will need to be drafted and printed after clearance by Legal Services. Regulatory Service prosecutors will deal with contested cases and process action against non-payers as far as possible.

16. A different process applies to offences under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, which allows ACSOs to issue Penalty Notices for Disorder (PNDs) for the following offences:

ˇ behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress
ˇ
throwing fireworks in the street
ˇ
trespassing on a railway
ˇ
throwing stones at trains
ˇ
consumption of alcohol in a designated place

These powers are granted at the discretion of the Chief Officer of police who has accredited the officers, who must take into consideration the functions of the ACSOs and views of relevant local partners. It would therefore seem necessary to gain the support of local CDRPs in extending the powers to these offences. It should be noted that there is detailed Home Office guidance on the issuing of PNDs and this is a new area for the police themselves. Hampshire Constabulary has not yet issued any PNDs. If such powers are granted to the County Council’s officers any notices that are contested or unpaid will be the responsibility of the police

17. Subject to budgetary constraints is planned to have four teams of 8 to 9 officers working shifts between noon and 10.00 pm all week, including weekends. However, some flexibility will be built in to vary the hours according to need. For example new regulations under the Fireworks Act 2003 are expected to introduce a curfew on the use of fireworks after 11.00 pm for most of the year. It is likely that a power to enforce the curfew could fall on ACSOs. These hours and shift pattern are worked by the wardens in Test Valley as there are little or no problems during the morning. Shift working is problematic and Southampton City recommended this pattern, although their team works from early morning due to dealing with dog fouling. The City Safety Manager said this was due to historic reasons and took away officers he would rather use in the evening if he had the choice.

18. The four teams will link to the seven police Basic Command Units (BCUs) across Hampshire. However, the logistics of operating across such large areas will make this difficult. For operational convenience it may be better to have some overlaps ie

ˇ south-west team to cover the New Forest, Romsey and Eastleigh;
ˇ
south-east team to take Fareham, Gosport and Havant plus Hedge End;
ˇ
central team with take Winchester and Andover;
ˇ
north-east team to cover Basingstoke and Aldershot.

19. An alternative option would be to pilot the service in four Districts that are keen to use the service and so link to four BCUs. Concentrating resources in this way would have a higher impact and is likely to lead to other Districts requesting the service. These could include the four areas that rated community safety as a high priority in the MORI residents survey ie New Forest, Havant, Eastleigh and Basingstoke. It is known that Havant is keen and Eastleigh, which does not have a warden scheme at present, is likely to be enthusiastic. New Forest currently have reservations and Basingstoke has its own warden scheme but there may be scope to work in the town centre. This is a starting point that may need to change once the service is operational and has the benefit of intelligence from the TCGs and CDRPs.

20. The County Council has formally endorsed to the government’s Enforcement Concordat and Trading Standards has developed an associated Enforcement Policy that has been approved by members. The role of the Community Safety Service requires a different type of policy to cover situations when officers deal with young people. The attached Enforcement Policy is submitted for approval by members (Annex 3 (pdf)).

21. In the deployment and operation of the service the safety of officers and the public will be paramount. Officers should always carefully evaluate any incident to assess whether their intervention is likely to be successful or whether the full powers of a police officer are required. ACSOs do not have the power to arrest or detain anyone, unlike Accredited Community Support Officers embedded with the police, who have the power to detain for 30 minutes. Health and Safety assessments will need to be in place before any operational deployment and work will start on these shortly.

PUBLIC RELATIONS

22. The launch of the service will require prolonged public relations campaign to ensure that the community is aware and understands the role of the new officers. Crime statistics show that Hampshire is a relatively safe place and the campaign needs to be implemented sensitively to ensure that it does not create undue fear, especially among the elderly and more vulnerable members of society. Regulatory Services are working with Corporate Communications to promote the new service and a key element will be to use the official accreditation badge that officers are required to wear at all times (Annex 4 (pdf)). This will help to build up recognition of officers and associate the badge with the County Council and the service. Subject to approval by the police it is planned to use the badge in advertising, features and vehicles used by officers.

Vehicles will also be badged with the Regulatory Services Advice Line telephone number. A website will also be developed and the address will also be on vehicles and stationery. Officers’ uniforms will be similar to police officers to give them an appearance of authority and distinguish them from wardens.

23. Key milestones in promoting the service will be:

Appointment of the manager - late July
Appointment of the officers - early September
Delivery of vehicles - early October
Accreditation of the officers - mid/late October
Launch of service - early November

24.Articles in the local media and Hampshire Now are planned and national publicity will be sought as the first County Council to adopt such a scheme.

Use of regional television, by inviting them to shadow a unit, would be a great step in creating public awareness.

SUCCESS FACTORS

25. The main purpose of the service will be to provide a visible presence on the streets to deal with low level anti-social behaviour and give reassurance to the community. It should also deal with environmental crime in relation to litter, graffiti, fly tipping and abandoned vehicles. The service should concentrate on geographic areas highlighted through TCGs, CDRPs and issues raised by the public and District councils. Measuring reductions in incidents of anti-social behaviour will rely on benchmarking data held by the police, CDRPs and also a Federal Database run by the County Council. However, it is understood that police data is not readily available. District councils will be encouraged to input data onto the Federal database.

26. The following are suggested as success factors:

Key outcomes - reduction in incidents of anti-social behaviour
response from MORI survey of Hampshire residents
response from Citizens Panel
results of satisfaction surveys
Charter of Service results
Key outputs - number of contacts with the public
number of complaints and enquiries actioned
number of fixed penalties issued
number of partnerships established
number of ASBO related incidents
number of media contacts

ANDREW SMITH
Director of Property, Business and Regulatory, Hampshire County Council

Date: 2 July 2004
Annexes: 4
Contact: Tony Langstone tel: 01962 846619 email: tony.langstone@hants.gov.uk

Last update: 07/07/2004
Author: Nick Goulder, Director

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