To update the Scrutiny Board on progress against the agreed actions for the Community Safety Partnership (CSP) 4 Key Priorities.
In attendance:Chief Superintendent Ian Parnell (West Midlands Police); Superintendent Richard Harris (West Midlands Police); Diane Rhoden (NHS Birmingham and Solihull ICB); Fiona Hughes (Solihull Community Housing); Carol Trappett (Solihull Community Housing); Neil Appleby (Probation Service); Mrs Alison McGrory (Solihull MBC); Gillian Crabbe (Solihull MBC); Caroline Murray (Solihull MBC); and Councillor D Howell – Cabinet Member (Communities & Leisure).
The Board considered a number of progress updates from the Safer Solihull Community Safety Partnership (SSP) in regard to their detailed project action plans to tackle the Partnerships four key 2022/23 priorities:
1. Violence Under-25: Key Priority Lead – West Midlands Police.
2. Violence Against Women & Girls: Key Priority Lead – Birmingham & Solihull ICB.
3. Anti-Social Behaviour: Key Priority Lead – Solihull Community Housing.
4. Hate Crime: Key Priority Lead – Solihull MBC.
The introductory report and each project action plan were taken as read and the Board proceeded to ask the following questions and make the following observations:
· Cllr A Burrow welcomed the report and its positive outlook. In doing so, Cllr Burrow referenced the emerging town centre re-developments within the Borough (e.g., Kingshurst) and asked what measures were in place to reduce and design-out crime and ASB from the onset. Officers confirmed that design considerations such as those were built into the planning stages of any new development/re-development. Cllr Burrow also asked what initiatives were in place to target litter, graffiti and general overgrowth of vegetation to lift the appearance of local areas and make them pleasant living spaces for residents. Officers advised that those examples fell into the category of “business as usual” and anything on Council owned land was normally dealt with quickly. For issues associated with privately owned land, such as overhanging branches near to footways, the Council would normally liaise with the property/landowners to negotiate a resolution. Finally, Cllr Burrow raised concerns regarding the use of nitrous oxide gas (specifically from small, pressurised metal containers) and their perceived contribution to ASB and other addictions. Officers advised that local public health colleagues were working with colleagues from across the West Midlands to develop a strategy to tackle the use of nitrous oxide canisters. West Midlands Police also highlighted their DOCO initiative (Design-Out Crime Officers) who were skilled in crime prevention and would engage at the planning stages of any new development/re-development to give advice on what was the most secure means of layout and design. With regard to overhanging vegetation in poorly lit areas such as alleyways and the perception of becoming crime hotspots, West Midlands Police highlighted that very few robbery offences took place in those locations, more so open areas and parks. Finally, the use of nitrous oxide was an emerging issue for West Midlands Police. Whilst it was not currently illegal to possess nitrous oxide, it was an offence to sell it to under 18’s and there was an opportunity to work with local trading standards to tackle under-age sales of that gas.
· Cllr D Howell thanked the Board for their review of the Partnerships key priorities. In respect of the use of nitrous oxide gas canisters, Cllr Howell highlighted that this was a growing problem and that the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care & Health was considering the issue with the Director of Public Health because of the increasing evidence of the physical and mental health ill-effects of its use.
· Cllr Mrs G Sleigh highlighted the Safer Streets campaign posters (to support victims and communities affected by VAWG) across Solihull Train Station and local bus shelters and asked if all train stations within the Borough were included within that initiative. Diane Rhoden undertook to confirm the extent of the campaign and Members would be advised accordingly.
· Cllr A Feeney referenced the Reducing Youth Violence project plan and welcomed the intentions to listen to and influence young people. Cllr Feeney asked what work was being done to understand the drivers that pushed young people towards committing violent crime and what intervention plans were in place. In response, West Midlands Police highlighted the strategic intentions of the delivery plan and a number of early help interventions which included vulnerability tracking and work around a communications plan to help link with young people who may be at risk of a violent, criminal or gang lifestyle. Cllr Feeney also emphasised the importance of early engagement with schools and parents to support this work.
· Cllr Mrs G Sleigh noted that violence against women and girls was under-reported and asked what work was being done to encourage victims to come forward. Diane Rhoden highlighted initiatives such as the World Café days as an example of ongoing community engagement and other ongoing work with the Solihull Safeguarding Childrens Partnership and the Domestic Abuse Partnership Board to increase awareness, promote zero tolerance and encourage reporting. Members were advised that the most recent data-card did show an increase in reporting which was welcomed.
· Cllr B Groom welcomed the Partnerships updates and the ongoing progress of the work highlighted in the delivery plans. Cllr Groom asked for the level of assurance around the initiatives highlighted as RAG status “amber” and did anything need to be strengthened to ensure the delivery of those initiatives within the delivery plan period. Officers advised that work had now been ongoing for over 12 months and at least two of the Partnerships priorities was now very much considered “business as usual” (particularly Hate Crime and ASB). In terms of the Safer Solihull Partnership going forwards, resources would need to be managed to ensure effective Partnership work was still achievable and targeted Partnership work continued to focus in the most needed areas. Cllr Groom also asked if all that work was still considered achievable given the additional budget pressures the Council was now facing. Officers advised that there were no plans to reduce Council staffing resources for community safety. That agenda did, however, require a Partnership response and there was no guarantee at this stage that all Partners would be able to maintain their current levels of commitment. West Midlands Police added that the delivery plans were ambitious and not all objectives would be met quickly as some objectives needed cultural and behavioural changes in society that would take effort and time. Finally, Cllr Groom asked what improvements had been made to data capture and analysis, particularly within the Police, and was advised that West Midlands Police had invested heavily in their data analysis which now allowed predictive analytics to better understand future trends and the sharing of data with other Partners such as Health and SCH.
· Cllr S Sheshabhatter asked if the current approach was working sufficiently to address the levels of crime within Solihull, if the Partnership had enough resources, and if means of reporting were working effectively. West Midlands Police highlighted that unprecedented levels of demand were currently being seen for 999, 101 and webchat. Currently, 75% of incoming demand to Force Contact did not result in anything that required police attendance or attention. The Board was advised of several work-steams ongoing to provide extra resourcing, better processes and systems, better understanding of incoming data and matching resources to demand profiles such as expected seasonal demands and ad-hoc peaks in certain crime types. Cllr Sheshabhatter also highlighted ASB which had been a cause of concern in the north of the Borough and asked what strategies were in place to tackle that. SCH advised that the ASB action plan was led via SCH and several well-established initiatives were in progress, supported by their own call centre and dedicated ASB officers. SCH reported that they had seen an overall decrease in ASB which was to be welcomed although it was highlighted that it was predominantly a responsive service and the quality and timeliness of that cross-tenure service was seen as key.
· Cllr M Carthew also referenced the Reducing Youth Violence project plan and the progress towards the intentions to listen to and influence young people. West Midlands Police confirmed that this area had presented some challenges around communication and work was ongoing to strengthen this area, which included the newly established Early Help Teams and proactive interventions with schools.
· Cllr S Sheshabhatter also highlighted graffiti as an issue of concern and the challenges posed in its reporting, dependant on the ownership of either land or apparatus. Officers advised that in the first instance, graffiti reporting should be directed towards the Council; the challenge then being the follow-up action required in some instances of private/utility company ownership. Cllr Sheshabhatter suggested that the methods of reporting graffiti should be easy for the public and officers undertook to raise this with the Council’s Customer Services Team Manager to see what improvements could be made to the information given out at that point of contact.
· Cllr W Qais highlighted that domestic abuse affected both males and females and asked what work was being done around awareness raising. Officers advised that all campaigns were targeted from a gender perspective. Statistically, women were more likely to be victims of domestic abuse, however, it was recognised that there were also male victims and support services were in place for both genders.
· Cllr S Sheshabhatter highlighted that there had been a perceived increase in bike thefts and asked what work was being done to deter, tackle and raise awareness. West Midlands Police noted that, from their data, an increase in cycle theft reporting was not apparent (albeit there could be an element of under reporting). The Board was advised of general work undertaken by the Police to advise the public on crime prevention, although there had not been a specific recent initiative on cycle security. West Midlands Police undertook to set up a future community event and would make this request to their appropriate team.
· Cllr W Qais highlighted the female taxi driver initiative within the aims for safer public transport and asked for further detail on this. Officers advised that the Violence Reduction Partnership was leading on this piece of work at a regional level. If they had not already started, several female taxi drivers would now be working within the Borough.
· Cllr D Howell emphasised the importance of all Partners working together and thanked the Board for their consideration of the report and feedback. Cllr Howell also highlighted other opportunities for Member engagement with Partners through their invitations to “Localities” meetings where issues were discussed on a place-based basis.
That, subject to the comments and views recorded in the preamble above, the Board UNANIMOUSLY made the following recommendations to the Safer Solihull Partnership and the Cabinet Member (Communities & Leisure):
(i) That, the Board notes and welcomes the current progress towards the Safer Solihull Partnership’s 4 Key Priorities, emphasising the importance of preventative Partnership working;
(ii) That, the Safer Solihull Partnership provide further details (outside of the meeting) to confirm the geographical extent of the Safer Streets Campaign;
(iii) That, the Safer Solihull Partnership be invited to pursue further initiatives with police and health colleagues to tackle the use of nitrous oxide gas canisters and, where necessary, pursue joint work with Trading Standards to deter under-age sales;
(iv) That, the Council be invited to review (and refine where appropriate) the customer contact information available to the public in relation to the reporting of graffiti in the first instance; and
(v) That, West Midlands Police be invited to include bicycle crime prevention as part of their regular neighbourhood crime prevention events.