Luton Neighbourhood Watch AGM Sept 2013 - Minutes11/02/2014
Luton Neighbourhood Watch
24th September 2013
Steering Group Attendees :
John Fullarton (Chair)
Jim Hannah (Treasurer)
Guest Speakers :
Simon Barker, Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service
Chief Inspector Rob McCaffray, Bedfordshire Police
Colette Paul, Chief Constable, Bedfordshire Police
Councillor Hazel Simmons, Luton Borough Council
Were discussed and agreed by all as correct.
The Steering Group members were introduced.
Malcolm Mountain, Mr Rose, Carole Burke, Els Tallett, Corina House, Alex House, Linda Hennigan (Bedfordshire Probation), Olly Martins (Police and Crime Commissioner)
The group has had a successful year and been involved in lots of projects. It has also set up a Drop In Centre at Lewsey Community Centre every Wednesday morning, and now has a mobile phone and email. As well as advice, new membership forms, posters, and start up booklets are available. Linda advised volunteers are still being sought to join the Steering Group or help in other positions (e.g. a journalist to increase press coverage). She sent best wishes to Freda and Nancy who have given many years service, and are both currently ill, and thanked Lynne Hunt and her team. Continuing projects include helping coordinators register their scheme on the ‘Our Watch’ website – Deborah can provide more info.
Jim advised that successful applications for funds in South and Lewsey wards resulted in grants totalling £2,700.00 to be spent in these areas.
Because of the strict rules applied to these funds only £474.84 has been received into LNW accounts up to the present.
A more detailed report was distributed at the meeting. The auditors report is available for inspection.
Colette Paul introduced herself, and advised she has 29 years’ service with the police – 24 in the Metropolitan police. Bedfordshire police is a small, friendly force with a ‘can do’ attitude - a rural force with metropolitan challenges.
Colette advised she intends to build on Alf Hitchcock’s work; focus on fighting crime, protecting the public, and putting public at the heart of what they do, working innovatively with them and local authorities and the fire service to meet their challenges. The police are also collaborating with other forces to protect the front line, ensure staff have the right tools to do the job and do the best for the public in Bedfordshire.
The police face £7M cuts in a force already identified as efficient and giving value for money through a time of major change. Colette told the meeting despite cuts, successes continue – robbery is 7% down, and burglary 30%, but other crime statistics have risen – vehicle crime has risen. Reports of rape and sexual offences have also risen, but this indicates people now feel confident to come forwards and report incidents. The force’s operational issues are gun crime, serious and organised crime, slavery, counter terrorism, prostitution, anti social behaviour, and the issues around the travelling community.
The 43 police forces nationwide are compared on victim satisfaction; Bedfordshire police used to be at 43, now it is in the 30s – Colette aims for it to be in the top 10; this will show people are confident in coming to the police and the more intelligence the police have, the more effective they can be.
Colette said she and Olly Martins, the Police and Crime Commissioner want to reinstate community contact which has been lost as officers concentrate on serious crime; by putting some officers back into community policing in certain areas of Luton, and increasing the number of special constables this can be achieved. Colette noted both she and Olly Martins want to expand volunteering as a whole – Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) is the biggest volunteer organisation in the country and is very valuable, allowing communities and the police to work together. A paid co-ordinator post has been put in place for NHW across the county, which will improve communications. Other plans around volunteering include expanding both the cadet scheme and Speed Watch.
7. Guest Speaker – Area Commander Simon Barker, Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue Service
Simon introduced himself as a Luton resident with 28 years service, all within Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS) and mostly in Luton.
BFRS’s work is mainly around fire risk – in the home, at work, in leisure time and when travelling. Different categories of people face differing levels of risk. Luton is like an inner London borough and the risks reflect that.
At home, the elderly; those with chronic physical or mental health problems; those in deprived areas; in houses of multiple occupancy or in poor accommodation are at higher risk of fire. The young and well educated are at risk from cooking fires; young people in high density social housing are at risk from cooking and smoking. BFRS has data to identify where people are (in Luton high risk areas include Biscot, Dallow, High Town and Farley) – but communicating with them is difficult.
Other risks include deliberate fires (not only arson, but fires set on purpose eg grills) and those in open spaces (eg grass fires, litter bin fires). High risk areas for this are Northwell, Farley, South, Biscot and Dallow.
Whilst travelling, risks on the roads are higher for young drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and “born again” bikers.
Simon advised BFRS also does or would respond to call outs around flooding, heritage buildings, rural (field) fires, and terrorist attacks.
BFRS has worked with partners to produce a range of local and county plans around wider risks. In Luton, this includes transport links, industry and commerce, leisure locations, its growing ethnically diverse and youthful population, areas of high deprivation, below average disposable incomes and life expectancy, and higher than average issues around alcohol and obesity. Officers also attend adult and child safeguarding boards across the county.
Part of BFRS work is around prevention and education; including week long courses for young offenders; work with the Princes Trust; the ‘Safe at Home’ scheme and taking part in Environmental Action Days. They also have school arson reduction awareness visits and road safety events. Staff are also trained to signpost people to other services, eg stopping smoking. The BFRS run a volunteer scheme and are now looking to extend it.
BFRS also look at protection; ensuring buildings are safe and escapes are clear, with a database of 17000 properties. They also offer advice and guidance for large local events through the Safety Advisory Group.
In terms of response, house fires should have 2 pumps there within 8 minutes. Whilst the fire service is undergoing cuts as well, they are working to ensure all appliances, crew and stations are in the right place and service is maintained. A special operations service was set up during the Olympics to deal with casualties, which is still available.
NHW can help; members know who comes into the high risk groups, and can generate a referral for a free home fire safety check on their behalf. Due to budget constraints this is only available to the risk groups only.
Finally, Simon advised the meeting the national dispute will go ahead on 25th September between noon and 4pm; business continuity plans have been put in place to ensure there is a response service, albeit reduced.
Rob introduced himself and advised the meeting he has worked as a police officer in Luton for 20 years.
Luton is a densely populated urban area, similar to a London borough; the census says it has 205,000 people (including 11,000 students) in 77,000 dwellings. It has a higher proportion of young people than the national average. It has a large number of ethnic groups and mix of religions. It is ranked 69th out of 325 towns in terms of deprivation, and has a national focus as the birthplace of the English Defence League and the location the London Bombers travelled from. It is also a town undergoing regeneration.
Challenges for the police are: reducing robbery offences; reducing burglary; tackling gun crime; tackling the street sex trade; and reducing ASB. The police have introduced leaner and smarter working due to reduced funding. Partnership working has meant joint responses from the police, local authority and communities.
To reduce robbery offences, officers were placed in key areas. Operation Oklahoma led to 1,234 people and 164 vehicles searched, with 70 arrests made, including one whole burglary team. Presentations were given to 8,000 high school children around the consequences of crime. Robbery has reduced 33% over 6 months; 13% year to date.
To reduce burglary, Operation Peak put officers in the right place at the right time; over 1,000 people were searched and 109 arrests were made. Operation Generous set up a ‘trap shop’ in High Town where burglars were taking stolen items. These and other initiatives including two enforcement days and Integrated Offender Management (which gives support for offenders to break the cycle by addressing all their issues together) have meant cases have fallen by 31% over the last year; residents are less likely to be burgled now in Luton than at any time over last 20 years.
Luton faced a number of gun and knife crimes this year, including several murders in a short period of time which is challenging for communities, families and the police. Three operations (with assistance from other forces) have been successful, and one suspect is now in prison. Other work has led to 66 arrests so far, 13 firearms removed from the streets and 8 people charged.
The street sex trade work is focussing on High Town. Operation Turtle targets kerb crawlers to reduce demand; a dispersal order is in place; and a group of street workers are being worked with individually to address all their issues and help them exit the work, and all workers are being encouraged to take part. Again, this is using a multi agency approach.
With regards to anti social behaviour, a joint team of local authority and police staff was established in November 2011. They focus on high risk cases, have an 80% success rate, and have won a number of awards.
Rob noted there has never been a greater need for NHW in the borough of Luton. He thanked them for their efforts over the past 12 months, and wished them growth and prosperity for the future. In response, John Fullarton noted the PCC wants to give NHW more support and support the recruitment drive. He thanked Rob for the support he has given to NHW.
9. Guest Speaker : Tafheen Sharif, Deputy PCC
Tafheen advised the meeting she was attending as the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, and noted she is also the local ward councillor for Dallow. She gave Olly Martins’ apologies for not being able to attend the meeting.
Tafheen reminded the meeting the role of the commissioner is to hold the force to account; work in partnership with other agencies (including the NHW); ensure the service is effective; look after the budget; cut crime and deliver an effective police service. The Police and Crime Plan, published in April, will be refreshed annually. It is available online (see http://www.bedfordshire.pcc.police.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Police-and-Crime-Plan-April-2013.pdf ).
Tafheen noted the PCC has introduced a number of initiatives around communities; PCSO posts will be increased rather than cut – they are valuable in building strong community relationships. Lynne Arch, the new countywide NHW Coordinator starts on 1st October and will work to map out the streets already covered, generate new schemes and train volunteers as well as co-ordinating leaflets and other activities; Steering Groups will be contacted to discuss her work in more detail. She will work 4 days a week and hold a small budget. As well as NHW, the PCC is keen to encourage more volunteers to become involved in policing their communities through the police Specials (18+) and Cadets schemes. Hard to reach groups will be visited to promote volunteering. A major issue is whilst crime is reducing, the public perception of crime rates is not; this needs to be addressed. Tafheen acknowledged the £7.5M cuts the police face, and that volunteers will help them make a difference to the lives of people in Luton.
John Fullarton noted Luton NHW has mapping data to assist Lynne, it will also help locate NHW volunteers to address issues arising in specific areas.
Cllr Simmons introduced herself; she has been a Councillor for 21 years in Lewsey Ward.
She advised the meeting that the council has published a prospectus outlining where they want to be over the next 5 years, focussing on key activities such as business growth. To date, the council has saved £36M over two years; but have to find another £49M of cuts by 2015. A recent announcement by the Chancellor means another £15M must be cut by 2016. The Council is working on increasing income and cutting costs; only statutory services will be provided, no extras. The council and police are looking at how they can work together to reduce costs for both. On a more positive note, there is growth with the development at Century Park and at the airport and the new busway opened today.
Cllr Simmons noted the welfare reform changes have impacted Luton’s community; benefits have reduced and the bedroom tax has affected the elderly disabled particularly and no smaller properties are available. The Council is working with neighbours to develop housing outside Luton but this is not a quick fix. She advised attendees booklets on welfare reform are available from the council for them to give out.
Cllr Simmons advised the NHW Steering Group a source of funding is from the Bedfordshire and Luton Foundation (funded by Luton Airport); any grants have criteria attached.
Cllr Simmons finished by thanking NHW for their work and said the council wants to continue to working with them.
John Fullarton said a NHW member is friendly, listens, and helps. A Co-ordinator – does all that and works with the Steering Group; creating a vital link between the membership and local police. Attendees were invited to join the Steering Group and get involved in wider activities to help create a better town. He noted Co-ordinators need a PNC check. Finally, he thanked everyone for the effort they put in.
Deborah Hopkins told the meeting that Neighbourhood Watch matters. Schemes make Luton a better town to live in, grow up in, raise families, and grow old in. She thanked everyone for the work they have done over the years; and advised the Steering Group can offer more support. They have an office at Lewsey Community Centre every Wednesday morning, and can be contacted by email or mobile phone. There is also a web page. Luton NHW have introduced alert cards this year, which are available from the Steering Group; allows you to put message cards through neighbours doors. NHW have attended two Community Festivals and also run two workshop sessions, as well as developing a training session with Luton Adult Learning which can be taken to community groups. Many other activities could be listed. Regionally, Freda Hunter won the NHW Coordinator Outstanding Achievement Award for the East of England, so congratulations are due. Finally, welcome to Tracey Adams on the Steering Group.
John Fullarton thanked the Probation Service for their assistance with leaflet drops etc.
12, Question and Answer session
A question and answer session followed.
Chief Constable Paul:
Chief Inspector McCaffray:
Simon Barker advised the BFRS need to increase their understanding of the NHW network and links to see how they could support communication with communities.
The meeting was closed.
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