The ASB, Crime and Policing Act 2014 is designed to shift the focus from centrally set targets, and the type of behaviour, to looking at the impacts on the lives of victims. Key components in the “putting victims first” approach are the Community Trigger and Community Remedy. These two tools also carry statutory duties for the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), which in London’s case are carried out by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC).
Victims of anti-social behaviour in the borough felt that their cases weren’t always being investigated fully and they weren’t always kept informed of any progress that was occurring with investigations into their complaints. Agencies, on occasions, worked in isolation and tended to be inflexible in investigating complaints, unsure of how to escalate high risk cases, or involve the wider partnership in problem-solving approaches. Agencies also tended to look at which partner organisation should lead, rather than how they could work together to solve the problem.
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 introduced the Community Trigger as a means to give victims and communities the right to request a review of their case and bring agencies together to take a joined-up, problem-solving approach to find a solution.
The act encouraged councils, police, registered providers of social housing and Clinical Commissioning Groups(CCGs) to undertake a case review when someone requests one and the case meets a locally defined threshold.
This is intended to help reassure victims that agencies take their reports of anti-social behaviour seriously and that these agencies should use as many means as possible to maximise awareness of the Community Trigger, in particular among vulnerable people and professionals who work which such people. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) introduced the London-wide trigger threshold and received its first activation on the day this new approach went live.
The local process is clearly defined and explained on the council website. All partners agreed that the Community Safety Team would co-ordinate the process to assist with supporting and protecting vulnerable and at high risk victims. The Community Safety Team employ a representative from Victim Support to act on behalf of the victim throughout the process and to ensure that they are kept at the heart of the scrutiny and that a harm-centred approach is adopted throughout the review. In addition, the team has a seconded Approved Mental Professional who ensures that the partnership is aware of, and capable of, undertaking their safeguarding and mental health responsibilities. This has proved highly valuable in complying with the new Care Act responsibilities and in ensuring that all relevant agencies are involved.
The Community Trigger is one of the government’s new approaches to “putting the victim first”, ensuring the right response is undertaken for the needs of the victim and the impact the behaviour is having not only on their lives but that of their family and the community that they live in. Early trials of the trigger identified that it not only reassured the victim and those that may have acted on their behalf, but it also improved local partnership working, encouraging more information sharing and joint ownership. It identified agencies who were reluctant to get involved and those who could have worked more effectively if they involved other partners. It also encouraged those who are most vulnerable, or may not otherwise engage with agencies, to report incidents of anti-social behaviour.
To ensure that the Community Trigger would be both beneficial to the victim and the local partnership, the process was presented to and agreed by the Strategic Partnership. The process was clear and simple and every effort was made to assist the victim. Timescales and identifying those with authority to manage the process were established from the outset.
Each victim who applied to activate the trigger was interviewed by a community safety officer to ensure that the threshold was either met, or if it wasn’t, that the right authorities were aware of the complaint and further actions would be taken to satisfy their concerns.
When a trigger was activated a panel meeting was established to review the investigations and obtain information from those previously involved. This gave the process credibility and the authority to implement an action plan to rectify where necessary any poor performance or inactivity on behalf of those who had undertaken actions.
In cases where the victim was in dispute over a trigger being refused, a senior officer of the partnership was responsible for reviewing and, where necessary, overturning that decision. This officer would also be made aware of every application to activate the trigger process, whether successful or not, and would oversee the process to make sure that the victim was continually at the centre of the review and that the necessary action was being taken.
Due to the clearly defined role of the Community Safety Team, partners were confident that the process was being correctly co-ordinated and the right agencies were being involved. Cases that were high risk were immediately escalated and joint working was undertaken to reduce the risk and protect those concerned. Those that successfully applied to the trigger process felt continually supported and always informed of any progress. The involvement of the Victim Support officer generated confidence in those being targeted and organisations benefited from the advice and guidance of the Mental Health Officer. A more focused problem-solving approach was adopted and effective relationships built. There was a much greater opportunity to successfully close cases and local officers felt that the process not only assisted them individually but improved working practices across the borough.
No extra costs were incurred and match funding for the Victim Support Officer and the Mental Health Manager was provided by MOPAC.
Chief Community Safety Officer