People power brought to policing

ORDINARY people will be given powers to smash crime and stamp out anti-social behaviour in a revolutionary scheme being launched in Essex.Colchester will act as trailblazers for the new Neighbourhood Action Panel initiative, which aims to empower communities to tackle their own individual problems.

By Sharon Asplin

ORDINARY people will be given powers to smash crime and stamp out anti-social behaviour in a revolutionary scheme being launched in Essex.

Colchester will act as trailblazers for the new Neighbourhood Action Panel initiative, which aims to empower communities to tackle their own individual problems.

But the key difference between this and a raft of other crime-fighting partnerships forged in the past will be the onus on local residents to do something to help themselves.


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Fifteen new-style action panels are designed to solve crime in Colchester and the scheme, already successful elsewhere in the UK, will be rolled out to the rest of the county by Essex Police early next year.

The Colchester initiative, co-ordinated by the Colchester Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership, will be launched at a public meeting next Monday.

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Partnership co-ordinator, Peter Carrington, said: “It is not just about people coming along and asking us what we are going to do about it.

“It's about what 'you' can do to help yourself. It is a completely new approach with huge potential but we need the community to take part.”

The scheme builds on the Government's dedicated neighbourhood policing teams, introduced to Colchester this April.

While stamping out crime is the obvious aim, quality of life issues are equally as important and the panels are part of the Government's Respect agenda to drive down these problems.

A core group on each panel will include representatives from parish councils, residents' associations, Neighbourhood Watch, community action groups, landlords, councillors and members of the public.

Essex contains busy town centres, deprived housing estates and rural backwaters, each with their own individual pressures.

So, instead of merely addressing meetings, members will mingle with the community to encourage people to raise their concerns before deciding and reporting back on their areas' priorities.

The Colchester partnership has set aside £48,000 to kick-start the initiative and has access to other funding pots for other schemes.

Mr Carrington is keen to convince sceptics this scheme will bring in results: “I professionally think it is the most exciting step forward we have ever taken in identifying local priorities.

“If we are going to tackle crime and quality of life issues that hit us in the face, such as flyposting, drunks or graffiti, then we need to get into these local communities.”

The onus will be on the public to help crack crime and stamp out nuisance. For example, if people complain about anti-social behaviour they will be expected to keep a diary and fill in report sheets, which can be passed back to panels to act upon.

Colchester borough Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator and chairman, Carole Dennis, added: “I think it will work. There is the right mix of people and it makes the community responsible for the community they live in and shows that they cannot have everyone to do everything for them.

“It is teaching and showing people there is a lot they can do themselves, although they need help, and that they can be empowered.”

Groups will meet every month in the St Andrew's, St Anne's, town centre, the New Town, Dutch Quarter, High Woods and Stanway areas of Colchester and every other month in more rural areas such as Wivenhoe, Copford, Dedham, Mersea, Pyefleet and Tiptree.

The official launch will take place at 1.30pm next Monday at Rowhedge village hall. All are welcome. For more information about your local panel call 01206 717816 or email peter.carrington@colchester.gov.uk

sharon.asplin@eadt.co.uk

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