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Making a difference in Portsmouth

September 18, 2012 6:44 PM
By Cllr. Lynne Stagg, Portsmouth City Council in Fighting Crime - Locally by the Lib Dem LGA group
Cllr. Lynne Stagg

Cllr. Lynne Stagg

Lib Dem Portsmouth City Council decided some years ago that action to fight crime must be evidence-based and that all members of the Safer Portsmouth Partnership (officers, councillors and other organisations) must work closely together. Staff from outside agencies are co-located within the council offices alongside the Community Safety team. Rigorous scrutiny and research are carried out in order to be sure that the services provided are the right ones -including working with Portsmouth University.

Public sector cuts mean there is an even greater need to work more smartly so that, as far as possible services are maintained and this is a key Lib Dem priority. We've focused on specific problems to target in depth at any one time rather than trying to tackle everything at the same time and spreading diminishing resources thinly and therefore less effectively. This has proved to be very effective as crime in general has decreased and public satisfaction has increased

Two examples of what we are doing are preventing re-offending and tackling alcohol abuse

Cutting re-offending

Currently action is focused on better partnership working to enable offenders to turn their lives around. This includes delivering interventions to address domestic abuse, reviewing the effectiveness of integrated offender management and supporting those released from prison.

In 2011 a local 'meet at the gate' project was pump primed to make sure that the target group of ex-offenders have peer support, suitable accommodation and access to employment and training as soon as possible after release from prison in order to stop the re-offending cycle. The aim of the project is to improve existing services so that we work smarter within current - and reducing - resources. A city wide review of work to address re-offending is planned for 2013/14.

How will we know we have made a difference?

  • We track re-offending measures and successful completions of specific interventions such as those offenders on a Drug Rehabilitation Requirement, on 'specified activities' such as those delivered by the Alcohol Interventions Team (funded by public health budgets) and a Domestic Abuse Perpetrators programme.
  • These are presented quarterly to the Safer Portsmouth Partnership and an annual review of reoffending is included. We also monitor levels of the type of crimes most often committed by prolific offenders (burglary, theft and vehicle crime) as a rough indicator of the success of our work with prolific offenders.

Alcohol abuse

Portsmouth has a vibrant night-time economy that benefits the city, bringing an influx of people from surrounding areas and boosting local jobs.

Most people drink alcohol sensibly, but a significant minority drink at levels that may harm their health. Alcohol misuse costs the city about £74 million per year through costs to health services, crime and criminal justice agencies and employers (25% of Alcohol Review Survey respondents lost at least one day of work due to drinking, 3.5% missed 10 days or more).

Although the city has less hazardous and harmful drinkers than the national and regional averages, the city has more 'binge drinkers' than the national average and this is something we are working hard to tackle. The crime (and violent crime) rate attributable to alcohol is higher in Portsmouth than national, regional or similar areas. Our residents also report that drunk and rowdy behaviour causes problems where they live.

What 'works' to reduce alcohol misuse?

  • PREVENTION including awareness-raising and media campaigns together with education programmes that work to challenge behaviour and attitudes to alcohol.
  • TREATMENT focused on increasing access to treatment and support services from early intervention through to structured community and residential services for tier 3 / 4 referrals.
  • ENFORCEMENT tackling alcohol related crime and ASB and enforcing licensing legislation appropriately.

Where are the gaps? And what are we doing about it?

  • The Safer Portsmouth Partnership run awareness and education campaigns and a range of treatment and support services in the city. Last year 757 people were in treatment for alcohol misuse and 1415 people were referred to the Alcohol Intervention Team.
  • An Alcohol Specialist Nurse Service works with those who misuse alcohol to the extent that they have severe health problems requiring numerous ambulance call outs, Accident and Emergency visits and hospital admissions each year.
  • The patients requiring most resources were identified and targeted with the aim of reducing hospital admissions. A 39% reduction was achieved in 2011/12, which resulted in a reduction of 94 A&E visits, 97 hospital admissions and 53 ambulance call outs, a saving of over £55,000. An Alcohol Advisory School Nurse works with young people who have alcohol problems.
  • Enforcement actions take place as well as provision of a 'Safe Space' in the city centre on Friday and Saturday nights to provide minor injuries treatment and advice. The partnerships works with licensed retailers and premises to encourage responsible selling of alcohol and take action including closures against licensed premises acting irresponsibly.

The Safer Portsmouth Partnership aim to go further, increasing the number of people particularly young people and parents -receiving alcohol education; increase capacity to support victims of domestic abuse; reduce the availability of alcohol to young people; reverse the growth in hospital-related admissions and continue to target the night time economy through a combination of enforcement and promotion of responsible retailing to help reduce crime in those areas.