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Graham Allen MP: Commissioners should hammer home the two key principles of modern policing: partnership and prevention - 18.12.12
We need our Police Commissioners to hammer home the two key principles of modern policing: partnership and prevention. These two principles come together in early intervention.
The police cannot tackle crime on their own; they need effective partnership and the Police Commissioners are the perfect people to deliver that as I and the police minister underlined in our Parliamentary debate recently http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=11919&st=11%3a00%3a20&player=silverlight. The police will always have the task of reacting to crime. But the sustained prevention and reduction of crime requires a strategy which unites the police with all the other agencies, whether public or private or third sector, and which tackle the behaviours and lifestyles that breed anti-social behaviour and crime.
That strategy is early intervention.
If a child acquires in the first three years of life a bedrock of basic social and emotional skills he or she has a better chance of making a success in the rest of life: achieving at school and in further education and work; developing good physical and mental health; making good lifestyle choices; and, above all, forming relationships and becoming a great parent or carer for the next generation. For all of these reasons, Police Commissioners and police officers know that early intervention programmes that give children a good start in the first three years of life are the best possible method of preventing future criminal behaviour.
That was the central message of two reports I wrote for the government on early intervention. That's why I wrote to all Police and Crime Commissioner candidates, challenging them to adopt early intervention policies as their "unique selling point" in their relationship with the police. Instead of treading on operational toes, or seeking populism and publicity, Police Commissioners can use their skills, their independence and their positions to bring a strategic and long-term view to reducing crime, which will be welcomed by police officers, victims and taxpayers.
Police Commissioners are perfectly positioned to build strong partnerships with health, education and the third sector; they can explore the role of "what works" evidenced-based programmes, social finance and payment-by-results in reducing crime. We pioneered this approach with the police and other partners in developing Nottingham as the first "Early Intervention City". Here it was forward-thinking senior police officers who became the driving force of the new partnership. At one point the local police service was prepared to signal their commitment to stopping crime before it started by financially supporting local health visitors, although in the end the Home Office was not so enlightened, preferring to let problems become deeply rooted for 16 years or so and then pay massive sums for reactive and only ever partially successful policing. We persevered and brought the Family Nurse Partnership programme to Nottingham. This gives a dedicated health visitor to over 100 teenage mums and their babies, giving them the social and emotional skills to make a bright future for themselves. This cost us the same amount of money as locking away three 16-year-olds in a secure unit for a year (two of whom, incidentally, will go on to reoffend). This sort of investment in cutting the supply of dysfunction and criminality is a no-brainer and Police Commissioners can join the rest of us in explaining this to the Treasury as the biggest deficit reduction program they could dream of.
I recently asked Jeremy Browne, the Police Minister, to talk with me to PCCs about effectively reducing crime through early intervention and to work with 10 PCCs and link them with those who have the expertise to provide evidence-based programmes, the monetisation of outcomes, and standard contractual partnership arrangements that will make this an everyday feature of policing by the end of the first term of police commissioners.
With the right early intervention policies, we can forestall many of the mental and social problems which are factors in generating anti-social behaviour and crime later in life. If PCCs use their position creatively to become champions of early intervention, to argue for effective crime reduction programmes that make us safer and return money to the taxpayer, then they will be giving all those did not vote in the November elections a clear reason to do so next time.
If you're interested in getting involved or for more information please contact me at email@example.com.
Graham Allen, Labour MP for Nottingham North
Chair of the Early Intervention Foundation