Community Safety And Crime Prevention

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Community Safety and Crime Prevention

Community Safety and Crime Prevention


In recent years a remarkable air of optimism has blown through parts of the criminal justice system. It is remarkable because it stands in such a stark contrast to the 'nothing works' pessimism of the 1970s and early 1980s, when officially recorded rates of crime appeared to be spiralling, and officially sponsored research undermined confidence in the competence of criminal justice institutions to reverse the trend. It is remarkable, too, because the optimism has followed on the heels of a period of considerable resource constraint across the public sector, including criminal justice, where internal managerial concerns of efficient and economical organisation have been paramount.

Critical Analysis

The role of local authorities in community safety is especially important, because of their strategic position and outlook which has not been undermined by their new status as 'enabling' authorities. In the spring of 2006 the Local Government Management Board, together with the Association of District Councils, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, and the Association of County Councils, commissioned research into community safety activities in local government (LGMB, 2006). The research showed that nine out of 10 authorities saw community safety as a legitimate local policy area, bearing testimony to the growth in interest in community safety since the publication of the Morgan Report (Home Office, 2006), although only just over half of these had translated such a recognition into policy statements, and just under a half had appointed specialist community safety officers. Perhaps more relevant for present purposes is a consideration of what they do, in order to determine the extent to which they fit the tendency identified above. There is a multiplicity of organisational structures for community safety, with the most common being the insertion of community safety into the strategic concerns of the policy and resources committee, with there additionally sometimes being an inter-agency element to this within local authority institutional arrangements, or in terms of local authority input into independent multi-agency partnerships.

This is significant in so far as one might expect the strategic concerns of the policy and resources committee to include the economic well-being of the locality, and in so far as one might anticipate a business input into this where there is an interagency dimension to it, which there usually is in one form or another. The insertion of community safety into this kind of strategic thinking by the locality is further supported by the fact that where community safety officers are employed, they find, according to the survey, just under half of their time spent on policy development as opposed to service delivery.

In terms of crime preventive activities, it is instructive to learn that the most common activity amongst local authorities is town centre security - not something which necessarily immediately benefits local communities in the liberal spirit of social crime prevention or tackling fear of crime in disadvantaged communities. Unsurprisingly, it is CCTV which dominates the list, with 83 per cent of authorities having such ...
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