"Zero Tolerance does not work ... " claimed the Police & Crime Commissioner, (PCC) Julia Mulligan , as she attended the Barrowcliff Residents Association meeting (Monday 17th March). Sometimes police policy was wrong. The issue of how the police and Govt. tackled 'Domestic Abuse' was under review. The Zero Tolerance strategy deployed to Domestic Abuse was not working, "it actually prevents women from coming forward ... people do not understand that dynamic". And as she explained it made very real sense, what was the point in a policy that prevented victims from coming forward? In her role as PCC Julia Mulligan was responsible for re-establishing the soon to be defunct Victim Support arm of the 'justice system'. Whilst the police would look at the offence, from October 2014 it was the Crime Commissioners responsibility to provide Victim Support Services and to identify their needs better.
With an office of seven full time employees, one full time caseworker and a budget of £ 911,000 Julia Mulligan is working hard to address "what people want from their police force" . Almost one year into the role of PCC, surgeries (community & residents meetings) have been held in all the major towns of North Yorkshire, plans to hold at least one surgery a week together with drop ins, hanging around supermarkets etc once a fortnight to listen and to provide feedback to the police. Whilst the PCC cannot tell the police what to do and does not get involved with operations she can direct investment into initiatives under the Major Crime Unit. In the last six months for instance Operation Hawk, whereby using technology the police can track known criminals movements and activities, say using automatic number plate recognition along with other methods. (has signed the Official Secrets Act). There is lots of proactive work going on under the radar. In North Yorkshire, the new Police Chief (David Jones) had expressed surprise that there was no Rural Crime Strategy. In Scarborough there is real concern about people coming in from outside, from Liverpool and Manchester, especially drug dealing.
In her old job Mulligan says she worked within socially economic deprived areas of West Yorkshire, mainly with the NHS services, where prostitution had once been a problem, this had been superceded by youg people being exploited by groups of men, targetting vulnerable young girls. The biggest problem being that people know but do nothing about it. As part of her commisson for Victims she would be getting an independent research company to idenitfy where the resources would be needed the most. The PCC explained that collaboration was needed, whilst she did not have the power to intervene in 'policing ' she can bring other partners together. "I have the overall remit to bringing down crime". "There are some interesting partnerships being created here in Scarborough to help vulnerable people, those partners including the Fire and Rescue Services, Health Workers, Housing Authorities and Social Services working together is fundamental, challenging but vital."
Members of the Public were given chance to ask questions:
Q. Why aren't the police taking reported incidents seriously? There was a family ran off the road on the A171 by an overtaking car, the incident was reported but no action taken.
A. The Police have to use their own judgement and they may say there is no evidence. How safe do people feel? We want to be the most responsive police force in the Country. The feedback I get is that the police are not communicating well with the public.
Q. So why should people report crime?
A. Do call 101 - people say I don't want to call 101, nothing will happen. (an harrassment case was given that had been continuing for over 18 months where the vicitm felt they had not received any resolution and the harrassment was continuing.) What the police do is build up a repeated behaviour picture so it is important to report any incidents. Be persistant and keep dialling 101. Those calls form a picture.
Q. When you ring 101 you can spend five minutes giving (your own) details and not getting any response, whilst they (offenders) are getting away.
A. Try Crimestoppers - sometimes they react more quickly. They (101) need to verify who you are to respond correctly. Crimestoppers is anonymous.
Q. Why does it take so long in response times to incidents?
A. Sometimes the police decide not to respond ... when there is no evidence or they are not able to do anything about it. The police have to make that judgement. We are introducing new technology that will allow police officers to increase time on the beat by about 20% and allow them to use reources more efficiently.
Q. In the harrassment case?
A. For action to be taken it is necessary to call it up. Unfortunately 'harrassers' know the system and how it works. You must keep a log. If you don't get any assistance from the police then go to the CPS, though the level of threshold for CPS (involvement) is very hgh and increasing. There is some new legislation coming in April 2014 to combat harrassment cases, following the Fiona Pilkington case, a "community trigger" - where five or more people complain about an ongoing harrassment campaign, action will be taken.
Q. There is one police officer dedicated to this estate, J**** J*******, and three PSO's. No one has seen her for weeks. I have mentioned this before. We don't have any police presence. Our main problem on this estate is about 50 people. What if we stop paying our Council Tax and employ our own private police force?
A. They will probably arrest you !! (humour)
R. J**** J******** is known as "sick note", she didn't help herself when at one meeting when she said if she knows there are drugs in the house she would "kick the door down." nb the police were asked not to come tonight.
Q. The police have been asked not to use the Community & Youth Centre ( Gallows Close) as an information bureau. They are welcome to engage but not to see it as a resource of informants. We used to do "Cop-a Lot", could we restart it?
The PCC perked up a bit at this and seemd genuinely interested asking what this was about.
R. It was a scheme that engaged young people in activities (age 11 to 19) eg plain sailing and trips out. It stopped because of lack of funding. We can provide the Youth Workers we need funding.
A. If this inititative came from the Community and not the Council, yes we could help fund. We cannot subsidise other authorites projects. If you put a plan together then yes there are a number of funding schemes such as "Restorative Justice Funding" which are available. Get in touch with Travor at my office.
Q. What about the £ 1 mil Lottery Fund that Bill Chatt is Chair of? Is that part of the Community Project? We have asked for car park, new lighting and cameras.
(I asked another Cllr present about this, but he had been thrown off that committee)
A. I have said no to all funding of CCTV. If we were to fund all the CCTV request this would take up all of our budget.
MOQ. I am concerned about the police working in partnerships with other local groups that are closely interconnected. Surely the Police should be totally independent and stand alone? For instance, a young mother who cannot pay her rent because of drug debts ... if the local Councillors are associating themselves with known drug dealers and she faces problems of a criminal nature then who would she turn to? Would she have any confidence in the police when they are working side by side with other agencies that are untrustworthy. My fear is that the most vulnerable of young people will become even more isolated from seeking the help they need. If the police work in partnerships with 'others' what information is shared? Who is there for those young people who are outside of the 'system'?
A. We have tested pilot schemes of partnerships working together with the police. From my experience, overall the partnership scheme works and protects more vulnerable people. For those outside of the 'system' and for matters of a confidential nature, particularly with regard to abuse, there is a Charity (The Childrens Society), where young people will not be judged. Crimestoppers have introduced a youth brand, and along with CEOP they are working to help young people.
R. Yes, but here, where the 'uniforms' socialise together and are more interested in protecting each other, teachers, CAMHs, social workers, health officials, local authorities, housing and now the police, are all working together there is no protectiion or confidence for the most vulnerable and isolated young people.
Q. Third Sector Charities? They all lead back to Social Services. Who protects vulnerable people from Social Services?
A. The information passed between agencies is limited and should be treated confidentially.
Q. Unless there is a 'threat of life' the police dont want to know. What about all the bullying, abuse and harrassment that goes on at Facebook?
A. Even more threatening and dangerous than Facebook is Instagram. Having witnessed a photograph of a ten year old girl exposing herself with a message attached 'rape me now'. Instagram is instant and its content is lost on the web. It cannot be tracked or traced. Far more bullying, harrassment and manipulation of young people happens on Instagram than Facebook. It is a new phenomenom that we have no control over, trying to snapshot these appalling misuses of social media is extremely difficult. Whilst many may view the internet as a good thing and offers freeedom of expression and creativity it is about time the internet became more regulated, far tighter controls and regulations are needed. Even Facebook warrants are not valid in the UK.
The PCC then goes on to suggest that over 40% of crime in this country is coming inwards from abroad, believed to be mostly from Eastern European Countries and Asia. Whilst the impacts of criminal activity and the victims are here, the cause and source of the crime is often many thousands of miles away. Not only internet crime and identiity fraud but the illegal drugs trade. Whilst it may appear the police are not tackling drug dealers head on, under the radar they are gathering information and intelligence that leads them back to the point of source.
Q. So do you think a Zero Tolerance policy applied to drug dealers would be as unsuccessful as the Zero Tolerance policy for Domestic Abuse?
A. That is difficult to answer. The challenge relating to drug dealing is that for every drug dealer the police arrest or take off the streets, at least one or two more spring up to take their place, these could come from Manchester, Liverpool, Middlesborough. Under the radar the Police are being proactive in their fight against drug related crimes. As said before whilst the victims of such crimes are here and now, the beginnings or source of these crimes are started many thousands of miles away.
At 9.00 pm the PCC Julia Mulligan then left the meeting for a two hour journey back to an overnite stay in Leeds to catch a 6.00 am train to a meeting in London.
It was noted that Cllr Bill Chatt did not attend the meeting, and neither did a few other 'regulars'. It was also noted that Julia Mulligan was unaccompanied by a police possy and that she was very frank and open in her engagement with the twenty or so residents that turned out.
Many thanks to Julia Mulligan, another great example of girl power: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MX7MbG6MiQs