Getting organised in Devon & Cornwall
This registered association of 16 groups provides targeted training for coordinators, has an agreement with the local force guaranteeing neighbourhood policing and enables highly efficient reporting and distribution of information.
Key Learning Points
- Setting up a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between the Devon and Cornwall Community Watch Association (DaCCWA) and the police has allowed the group to undertake more focused activity with the police. Establishing the SLA was possible because DaCCWA has both an appropriate legal structure and is effectively managed to ensure delivery of agreed services.
- Developing Awards is a great way to promote the work that is done at the local level and in particular for engaging with young people.
The Devon and Cornwall Force covers a 4,000 square mile area with the Association representing a Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) membership of around 5,350 schemes. This equates to 156,580 households or about 22% of the area’s household population.
The Devon and Cornwall Community Watch Association (DaCCWA) was established in January 1998 and is a registered charity. DaCCWA aims to promote good citizenship and greater public participation in the prevention and solution of crime and quality of life issues. This is to be achieved by providing effective links between the police and Neighbourhood Watch communities and making every effort to ensure NHW infrastructure is aligned to local policing structures.
The Association is structured along local authority boundaries meaning there are a total of 16 district groups; 1 for Plymouth, 9 for Devon and 6 for Cornwall.
The current structure of DaCCWA consists of four levels:
The Strategic Board
Comprising 16 NHW representatives from each district, representatives from other Watch groups (e.g. Boat Watch), Police Officers from each of the four Basic Command Units and support officers from the force Neighbourhood Policing Unit. Key officers of the Board link directly to regional and national groups. It meets quarterly to discuss and determine any strategies, policies or development initiatives across the entire force area.
Basic Command Unit NHW Committee
Consists of four committees, each representing the Basic Command Units (BCU) of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Exeter, Plymouth and Devon. Members include elected District representatives and appropriate police and partner representatives. Committees meet quarterly to share good practice and discuss any issues or development initiatives across its BCU.
District NHW Forums
Made of elected NHW members from the individual Beat Areas within the district. It is the responsibility of the District Forums to ensure that the district NHW schemes are serviced properly. The forums provide the means for local solutions at the local level, ensure members have access to information, and provide NHW scheme members with opportunities to be involved locally in decision-making and problem-solving. The District Forum is also responsible for the election of its District NHW Representative to serve on the DaCCWA Board.
Local Beat Area NHW Groups
Provide opportunities for meetings for local NHW groups to discuss any concerns and identify local solutions. This structure ensures that NHW coordinators have access to decision and policy-making at all levels and, more importantly, have access and support at all levels as and when appropriate.
One of the key activities undertaken is promoting NHW and its work with Neighbourhood Policing through bi-annual force-wide conferences and at local events. Another has been seeking out funding from the police, local authority or externally to support the delivery of local and force-wide initiatives.
Localised free training is made available to coordinators. Sessions cover relevant issues including anti-social behaviour, Section 17 in relation to the welfare of children, problem-solving (scan, analyse, respond, assess), and conducting domestic security assessments.
The DaCCWA Awards were introduced in 2001, and are given to individuals or groups who have made a significant voluntary contribution to local community initiatives. An annual ceremony is held which brings all the nominees together to celebrate their work. The award categories include: Rural Category; Urban Category; Scheme of the Year; Coordinator of the Year; Special Awards; Crimestoppers Young Citizen of the Year Award; and Community Support Award. This year the Awards were presented by the Assistant Chief Constable, with a number of other senior officers also in attendance.
Improving the level of communication between the police and NHW schemes has been one of the main actions addressed. For example, establishing NHW Support Offices within police stations, staffed by NHW volunteers as part of the Police Volunteer Programme, has improved daily communication. Volunteers provide information and support to local schemes and the Neighbourhood Policing Teams. There are currently 19 support offices. This arrangement has also improved the two-way flow of information between the police and NHW members at the local level, which was previously identified as an area of concern by Watch members.
Let's Talk is the community messaging service used in the area to send out alerts and other information. Residents are able to receive these by phone, fax or e-mail. Importantly, given the size of the area covered, residents are able to identify specifically which scheme or schemes they wish to receive information about, such as general NHW information or Business Watch.
DaCCWA works with a wide range of partners across the area, particularly in relation to neighbourhood-specific issues. The key partner they work with is the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, with which they have a Service Level Agreement (SLA). The SLA serves to ensure that both partners are in agreement regarding each other’s commitments and expectations in relation to working together. The SLA was helpful in establishing clear and accountable roles and responsibilities between DaCCWA and the police. This has made working in partnership easier and also allows for the identification and redress of any issues which may arise. Fundamental to this is the implementation of neighbourhood policing across the county and the view that NHW schemes are essential to the success of this initiative. The benefits of working together include joined up community consultation and engagement activity to help fight crime and disorder, provide reassurance, reduce fear of crime and improve the quality of life and good neighbourliness within local areas.
Signing an information protocol with the police has greatly increased the scale of information volunteers have access to. Subject to completing data protection training, this facilitates more efficient distribution of information to scheme members, reducing the burden on police staff to first remove sensitive information (i.e. a burglary victim’s address) as this is done by the volunteer. This is only possible since DaCCWA is a registered organisation and therefore able to sign a protocol. It also reflects the professional approach taken to recruiting, training and managing volunteers.
One of the key impacts has been an increased recognition of NHW and the individuals and groups who are working in their communities. The Annual Community Awards Scheme began in 2001 with 12 nominations; in 2009 there were 90. Of particular importance is the increase in young people who are involved, representing the increased focus schemes and partners are placing on this group.
Running local conferences has helped increase capacity and facilitate networking across the area. In 2009 11 conferences were held with 600 attendees. Half of these were NHW coordinators and half were from the police. Conferences are themed, focusing on a particular issue or topic such as Partners and Communities Together (PACT) or the Police Volunteer Programme. Conferences offer opportunities for informal learning and networking.
In addition to the information and training offered at conferences, localised free training is available for coordinators in response to need. Sessions cover relevant issues including anti-social behaviour, Section 17 in relation to the welfare of children, problem-solving (scan, analyse, respond, assess), and domestic security assessment. Importantly, coordinators who are able to undertake light touch security assessments for their members, in non-hot spot areas, allows the police to focus on working in hot spot areas by reducing the instance of opportunist crimes.