To review the operation of the Borough’s Community Safety Partnership.
Davina Williams, Policy and Strategy Manager (Community Safety Partnership, Engagement and Commissioning), introduced the report. She explained that the partnership involved the police, health services, judges, the probation service, Members of the Council and key agencies. The report focused on the four priority areas one year into the two year plan.
The first priority related to domestic abuse. The Partnership tried to ensure that there was appropriate support for victims and perpetrators. This was often a hidden crime. Much of their work involved raising awareness and providing training, for example on safeguarding.
Superintendent Rob France, Thames Valley Police, stated that he believed that instances of domestic abuse are underreported. For example, it can easily pass unnoticed by neighbours where there are large detached houses.
Asked to explain changes in the definitions of domestic abuse which can make it difficult to compare statistics over time, Superintendent France stated that this was done by the Home Office and was out of their control but included, for example, changes in the lower age limit for some definitions.
Members asked about reasons for underreporting such as men being too embarrassed to report abuse or spouses not wanting to risk breaking up a marriage. Superintendent France responded that it was not really possible to estimate underreporting. He emphasised that if a crime was reported to police then they would move to prosecute. However, there were other organisations that people could go to, for example Women’s Aid. Brian Grady, Head of Strategic Commissioning, mentioned in this context that there was a triage group dealing with reports involving children.
Asked if he believed that the incidence of domestic abuse is falling or increasing, Superintendent France stated that he believed that it was falling overall but that the rate of reporting was increasing.
Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey said that women tended to be more aware of the extent of abuse because they all knew women who were being abused. She believed that in many cases women did not report abuse unless it affected their children.
Brian Grady stated that there was a need for a national conversation on domestic abuse. Rob France added that awareness raising needed to start in schools.
Davina Williams summarised the report on Priority 2 relating to repeat offenders. She stated that there was a support programme for a small cohort of individuals. The Partnership would try to help get them into employment. There were often multiple barriers that had to be overcome, for example dyslexia or the person may be a drug user or ex-drug user. Compared to the other Berkshire authorities, Wokingham had fewer repeat offenders.
Asked how funding works under this priority, Davina Williams and Superintendent France responded that there are a number of sources including the Police, housing services and anti-drugs services.
Davina Williams reported that the Council had changed providers of the substance mis-use recovery service to an organisation called SMART.
Asked if driving under the influence of drugs is on the increase, Superintendent France stated that new testing kits would be available soon to help Police identify offenders.
Davina Williams summarised Priority 3 which included various types of hidden crime such as incidents related to race or religion, homophobic or transphobic crimes, child sexual exploitation and female genital mutilation. She reported that increased awareness of racial crime had led to increased reporting.
Superintendent France stated that much depends on the links that the authorities have with different groups. For example, they had good links with the Mosque in Earley but fewer connections with disabled people.
Ken Miall asked if the Council had policies to deal with transsexual issues in schools. Davina Williams responded that this has been raised with educational psychology services who are working with schools. Brian Grady proposed to bring a short report on the matter to the next meeting.
Priority 4 was summarised as dealing with issues affecting residents of all ages and included burglary, theft of vehicles, anti-social behaviour, concerns of safety and fear of crime. Superintendent France reported that there had been an increase in violent offences and sexual offences whereas burglaries were down.
Davina Williams referred to a survey of young people which showed that their top concerns were related to careless driving and speeding. The Council’s budget for the partnership programmes this year was £118,000 and that will be reduced by 1 per cent next year.
Asked if Prevent - the programme to counter radicalisation - will be made a new priority, Superintendent France stated that this wasn’t a particularly big problem in the Borough and that it might be more useful to look in general at people who are vulnerable to exploitation whether it be in relation to drugs or terrorists.
1) the update report be noted; and
2) a report dealing with transgender issues in schools be discussed at the next meeting.