Reporting Person: Camilla Edmiston
The Committee welcomed Inspector Nell Rodriguez, Borough Commander of Surrey Police, and Camilla Edmiston, Community Safety Officer.
Camilla Edmiston provided a summary of the report for Members. It was a statutory requirement for the Community Safety Plan to be reported yearly.
The Community Safety Task Group received a quarterly report covering progress on the Community Safety Plan. The Woking Joint Committee was due to end and future updates would be given to the Safer Woking Partnership Group, once it was set up.
Statutory Guidance covering serious violence duty was introduced by Central Government at the end of 2022. The Police Commissioner and Surrey County Council had produced related guidance and all was being incorporated into the Community Safety Plan. A new county-wide strategy focusing on violence against women and girls had been released and this was being actively developed into the Community Safety Plan.
A community safety consultation was held in January and February 2023 which showed an increase in confidence from residents in the handling of crime and anti-social behaviour by the local police force compared with 2021.
Woking had recently been deemed one of the safest places in the Country and Members thanked Surrey Police, Community Safety team and partners for their continued work.
The Committee discussed anti-social behaviour and the difficulty in defining it. Legislation defined anti-social behaviour as causing harassment, alarm, or distress, which was a very broad scope within which to work. The nature of anti-social behaviour was cross-cutting between organisations and formed part of discussions at regular inter-agency meetings held. It was not always appropriate to report anti-social behaviour to the Police as many enforcement powers were held by the Local Authority. Both Camilla Edmiston and Inspector Rodriguez asked Members to reinforce to residents to report anti-social behaviour. Although it was not always appropriate or possible to take action against an individual incident, repeated incidents could be used against offenders.
Following a question, Camilla Edmiston urged Members to contact Officers in Housing if they were concerned that anti-social behaviour in Council-resident properties was not being addressed.
Members were encouraged to contact the Community Safety team if uncertain whether a matter reported to them was considered anti-social behaviour.
The Borough experienced relatively lower levels of county-lines crime compared with neighbouring districts and boroughs. Inspector Rodriguez confirmed that the Police continued to work in conjunction with British Transport Police on county-lines.
Councillor Azad reminded Members that it was necessary, as public figures, for Councillors to urge residents to report any incidents to the correct authority. If residents were concerned they could be identified, Crime Stoppers provided an anonymous way to report incidents.
[Post-meeting Note: The number for Crime Stoppers is 0800 555 111]
Inspector Rodriguez emphasised that, due to well publicised resource issues within the Police, coupled with the changed nature of crimes from previous generations, foot patrol was not always the most effective use of Police Officer time. Similarly, following concerns raised by several Councillors, Inspector Rodriguez explained that, though an immediate response was often desired from residents when a crime was reported, in actuality it was not always the most effective method to deal with an issue and there was greater value in crime prevention, in understanding and resolving the sources of the crime. It was particularly less effective to attend where a succession of lower-level crimes was occurring. A rapid response was always prioritised where people were deemed to be in danger. Surrey Police used a matrix to assess threat, harm, and risk to prioritise attendance.
Transparency regarding work undertaken by Police Officers, and managing the expectations of residents, was a key issue for the Police at a national scale. The Borough Commander was in the process of identifying specific needs of each Ward to improve effectiveness of the Police and crime prevention.
Members were pleased to hear that the Police were engaging directly with young people and schools.
Councillor Brown, in attendance at the meeting, was invited to contribute by Councillor Azad. Councillor Brown wished to understand what criteria gave rise to the installation of CCTV and whether Byfleet village would be considered an appropriate place for installation of CCTV. Although the Borough did possess CCTV cameras, the Borough Commander explained that the footage from cameras did not always meet the evidentiary threshold to be used in a case as identification of individuals was required. Additionally, Camilla Edmiston explained that the installation of CCTV was both expensive and frequently not always the most effective tool. Although CCTV was sometimes useful at capturing the crime being committed or those that have committed a crime, it was generally more effective to devote resources to preventing the crime occurring.
An approach to preventing crime that had previously seen success was ‘design out crime’ whereby an area was inspected to identify what infrastructure could be installed or changes made to an environment to prevent a crime occurring.
Inspector Rodriguez and Camilla Edmiston invited Members to meet with them outside of the meeting to discuss any concerns.
Councillor Azad and the whole Committee thanked Inspector Rodriguez and Camilla Edmiston for their time and presentation.
the Safer Woking Partnership Plan 2023-26 be noted.