Using residents’ insight to tackle crime

The Redbridge Community Crime Commission was established after the largest ever response to a council survey – more than 2,800 shared their views. 

Local people expressed their fear and frustration about crime – factors blamed for blighting a borough and overshadowing its inherent richness of diversity and amenity. 

Over six months, 16 local people, all with a passion to help create change, sifted through the evidence of more than 40 expert witnesses – from police, youth services, domestic abuse workers, academia, education and health professionals – who spoke candidly about the ambition they all have, but the barriers they face, to improving the situation. 

Heartbreaking testimony was provided by victims of crime – children who saw no future beyond gangs and drugs, through to those fearful of abuse within their own home, and many who were too scared to walk their local streets. 

Evidence sessions were supplemented by visits to youth offending services and community groups, and by fact-finding missions with local enforcement teams, CCTV operators and into schools. 

On each of these occasions, we were struck by the ambition and professionalism of the various representatives. 

Far from a lack of skill, it became clear that other, hidden issues were undermining efforts to create a safer borough. 

Taking a holistic view, these issues became glaringly apparent – we describe them as our ‘golden threads’ and they are pivotal in creating the kind of step-change required to tackle some of these entrenched problems. 

The ‘golden threads’ of change necessitate new ways of working, with some of the most immediate tasks being to address a disconnect between agencies that prevents early support or legitimate data sharing. 

It is perverse that a child in need might find that the first time they can access support is when things have gone terribly wrong. If we are to turn the tide on youth crime, we need to recognise that those involved are children first and foremost, and likely to be victims themselves. 

Other key learnings reflect the need to co-produce solutions with local people and organisations. We can’t arrest our way out of crime. Residents are the experts in their own experience, and often bring a level of insight and commitment to an area that cannot be replicated by parachuting in officers. 

Recommendations from our Community Crime Commission will be scrutinised by decision-makers within Redbridge Council and its key partners as part of budget setting. 

Our report will provide new evidence and a strategy for tackling issues such as violence against women, domestic abuse, drug and street crime, as well as burglary. 

Critically, we recognise the need to increase local confidence, to empower people to report and feel reassured about efforts to address crime. 

“Allowing local people to scrutinise services had the potential to be uncomfortable”

We’re clear that our recommendations are not a magic wand, but they do mark the opportunity to respond to one of the biggest citizen engagement exercises that the council has ever undertaken. 

Establishing the commission was a bold and brave move; allowing local people to scrutinise public services had the potential to be very uncomfortable. But such an approach is at the heart of creating trust and accountability. It seeks to redefine the partnership between electors and the elected. 

With an election year ahead for many councils, there are also real lessons to be learned here about how positive engagement with residents can go beyond listening and into positive action.

The findings of the Redbridge Community Crime Commission are due out in early 2022. Visit the Redbridge Community Crime Commission’s website for more information.

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