Stopping re-offending – a key part of my Police and Crime Plan
PCC Alison Hernandez explains why an innovative new scheme will help reduce the pressure on police and, most importantly, reduce the number of victims of crime.
You may have read recent stories about my police and crime plan and how I am working with the Chief Constable to transform our local policing workforce so that we can deliver the kind of service we want more efficiently and effectively.
In simple terms we really do have to change the way we think as we rise to the challenge of modern day policing. Of course many of the traditional methods still hold true, but at a time where no amount of money seems to be enough for an ever increasing demand for service, the pressures are greater than ever.
For example, in the last few days, we have been highlighting the dangers of child sexual exploitation (CSE) and what we are doing in Devon and Cornwall to combat this. Much of this police work goes on unseen by the public, and is an example of the balance that needs to be struck between visible policing, the bobby on the beat if you like, and devoting resources to policing the often dark world of the internet and the dangers it poses for all of us.
We must do all we can do to reduce pressure on the police and that is why preventing re-offending is a key priority in my plan. Therefore, in May of this year we will begin an innovative approach to reducing the number of victims by tackling the root causes of re-offending. This in turn will further improve our communities and ensure that they remain safe places to live and work.
Research shows that people are often motivated to commit crime due to underlying issues in their lives – these could include drug or alcohol misuse, mental and physical health issues, housing or homelessness, or problems to do with money or relationships.
Through the introduction of the delayed charge scheme, with the consent of the victim, we will be offering first time adult offenders the opportunity to engage in a 4 month contract as an alternative to prosecution. The scheme will offer interventions to start addressing some of those underlying reasons which contributed to the crime being committed. We will work closely with partner agencies to deliver this. We are only the second force in the country to trial it.
We will be limiting the scheme to those who have carried out what are considered to be less violent offences such as criminal damage, theft, drunkenness and public order offences. These are the type of offences for which first time offenders would rarely be sent to court. The scheme will not be available for more serious offences such as robbery, sexual offences and domestic abuse, or where the crime has been motivated by hate.
I am conscious that all offences in the main will have a victim. I want to ensure the victim has a voice and that it why the scheme cannot be offered without their consent. Where appropriate the victim will also be offered the opportunity to engage in our Restorative Justice approach, this is where the harm caused can sometimes be put right by bringing the victim and offender together.
Having read this far I am sure there are some of you who may be thinking that I have gone soft on crime and that this is an easy option. I can assure you this is not the case because the conditions of the delayed charge scheme are, as it says on the tin, far more onerous than what would traditionally be offered to first time offenders. They will get charged with the aim of a prosecution if they don't take up the help to get their lives back on track.
Each person who enters in to the scheme will be supported by one of our newly appointed experienced workers. These individuals will complete a detailed needs assessment with the offender and draw up a bespoke 4 month contract. This might include referrals to other organisations who can offer specialist intervention, for example in alcohol or substance misuse. The element of voluntary work will ensure that those on the scheme are putting something back to the local community, this is local to the individual and builds on the skills or interests they have.
Durham Police have been running a similar scheme for the past 3 years and have seen 90% of offenders who agree adhering to the contract. Of all of those who have been through the scheme, 80% have not been arrested again, and only 6% have gone on to be convicted at court. The figures suggest that this is the right approach to take and one which I fully support.
All of these innovative efforts are being done to help front line policing better focus on the things that matter to all of us in our communities. Better connecting policing and communities is my mission and we can all get involved.
This is an innovative approach and I wanted to give you an understanding of what will be happening locally from May. I am your elected policing representative, so I am looking forward to hearing your views on this. I welcome any feedback directly to me.