A crime commission has shown what great public engagement looks like and what it can accomplish when done right, writes Javed Khan, chairman of the Redbridge Community Crime Commission.
This week, we took an important step in an innovative approach to public engagement in Redbridge. The Community Crime Commission, an independent committee examining the response to crime in the borough, released its report, presenting 48 recommendations to the council and its partners.
Of course, resident engagement is nothing new – but the creation of an independently chaired survey that directly informs policy and resources takes citizen engagement to new levels.
Our report follows 10 weeks of detailed evidence gathering and working in partnership involving all agencies responsible for fighting crime in Redbridge. It offers the first set of community-led recommendations to be approved by the council’s executive and policy teams.
It approaches community safety by looking at the system rather than addressing its component parts. As a result, the commission’s recommendations will now guide the Local Community Safety Partnership’s delivery plan.
I have chaired the commission since its inception in the spring of 2021, working with 15 local commissioners, all with deep roots in the borough and a range of relevant expertise, united by an unwavering belief that when it comes to fighting crime , things could and should be better .
Initially, council leader Jas Athwal (Lab) and chief executive Lesley Seary publicly pledged to want change, welcoming the opportunity to uncover hard truths. They put the resources of the board behind us without ever interfering in discussions or vetoing recommendations for reasons of cost or political expediency. This commitment inspired the confidence of our commissioners and witnesses, who knew that they were participating in something with teeth.
Building on the council’s unprecedented engagement with 3,000 residents, we spent many months listening to partners in the council, police, local health, education and voluntary services systems. The process of refining the resulting recommendations has taught us a lot, not only about how best to fight crime, but also about what great public engagement looks like and what it can accomplish when well done.
Meaningful public engagement must be given time, resources and, most importantly, the determination of all parties involved that it is not a box-ticking exercise. People charged with bringing about change need to be serious listeners and ready to act.
The absolute focus on being guided by evidence has produced recommendations grounded in the reality of local life, addressing areas of genuine need and addressing where changes in the way things are do could unlock a significant improvement. Whether it’s protecting victims of domestic violence or fighting gang crime, we’ve heard the frustration of people who need support from multiple agencies, but find that everyone has their own way of doing things. things.
A 72-page report caught the attention of council leaders. While some recommendations involve long-term and systemic changes, the council has already committed £1.2million in 2022 to jump-start improvements.
Items that feature prominently on the agenda include:
- Ensure that women and girls can feel safe. The council and the police regularly organize safety walks for women to better identify places and situations where women do not feel safe. Immediate responses include increased CCTV at key locations, environmental improvements (such as lighting and maintenance) as well as improved intelligence for the deployment of police and law enforcement officers. In the longer term, this approach will inform broader integrated security plans.
- The commission heard that high thresholds for services, such as mental health (CAMHS) or social support, mean that many young people only access them in a crisis. Early support, to avoid such situations, is an essential element to ensure their safety and allow them to flourish. Requiring short and long-term adjustments, work is already underway to identify children at risk of delinquency with a new tailor-made support offer for secondary schools in the borough.
- Testimonies from survivors of domestic violence informed the commissioners’ recommendations about ways to make it easier for people to get help. The report recommends a new strategic lead for the issue – the coordination of efforts among a range of partners.
Residents acknowledged that staff are dedicated and hard-working, but saw them crippled by bureaucracy, poor coordination and ineffective communication. Working in silos may make sense inside the ‘system’, but it’s infuriating for those on the outside navigating an impenetrable forest of agencies.
Many of our recommendations highlight the need for better coordination and communication between service providers and those for whom the services should work.
But just as powerful as the frustration with services that don’t work is the deep sense of civic pride felt by residents. People across the borough are already working to make things better for themselves, their families and their neighbors. They are desperate to make a difference. They want to be part of the solution. They want to see their place “levelled”. What they need is long-term support from those who hold the reins of power (and the purse strings).
Too often, public engagement exercises provide short-term solutions or fleeting headlines that then fade away. So the final lesson from the commission is the importance of longevity. Trust takes time to build but can be destroyed very quickly. Short-term band-aid solutions are not effective, so sustained long-term action is crucial.
To help, the commission has already committed to return in 2023 to assess what has been achieved against the key objective of developing a safer Redbridge. The people of this borough deserve nothing less.
Javed Khan, Chairman, Redbridge Community Crime Commission