A problem shared is a problem understood, we need a community response to community safety and policing

Lambeth Council and Police have just gone out to consult on how people want their crime and disorder issues dealt with in the borough. The consultation can be found here (and is only four questions long) and the proposed draft terms of reference which give more detail and context can here Image

The outcome will be the creation of a Lambeth Safer Neighbourhood Board which will have representatives from different areas of Lambeth, different groups of people and different types of issues from burglary to stop and search to how we protect victims and vulnerable individuals.

In Lambeth there are currently groups that deal specifically with issues about crime and disorder or policing. Sometimes people bring safety issues up at other places like tenants or residents meetings alongside repairs, service charges or the state of the pavements. These discussions sometimes never meet and actually most people in Lambeth don’t attend meetings at all, discussing their issues informally with friends, work colleagues or not at all.

The ultimate goal of the Safer Neighbourhood Board is to bring together the things which people are concerned about, capture the themes about issues being discussed in different forums right across the borough, encouraging conversation about some and listening and responding to others.

The concerns on a street or an estate are often symptoms of bigger issues; in order to tackle big strategic problems like violence against young people we need local solutions based in the neighbourhoods where the problems occur. We need community resource to tackle them alongside the council or police. A borough-wide solution on its own will not deliver that.  And vice versa, a number of neighbourhood watches might need to raise an issue like residential burglary or dodgy door to door salesmen for it to be considered for a strategic response, otherwise they will be dealt with in isolation and good practice or successful solutions might never be shared.

Therefore the proposed new structure is designed to create a link between the local Safer Neighbourhood Panel, where local issues are brought up by concerned residents, neighbourhood watch leads and local Councillors, through to the area cluster meetings which discuss broader issues over a larger neighbourhood and then on to the Safer Neighbourhood Board.

Other groups like Victim Support, the Community Police Consultative Group, the Business community, South London Citizens and the Youth Council who all have a boroughwide mandate will also feed information into the Safer Neighbourhood Board discussions.

In this way the Safer Neighbourhood Board acts as a group of representatives who will bring together the concerns and solutions from those affected by the problem and those who will shape the solution. Those solutions can then be discussed at all levels so the most appropriate response to that neighbourhood can be developed and implemented – a process that recognises that Brixton is very different from Clapham or Vauxhall or the South Bank.

What is very different is that for the first time there will discussion of the issues which affect Lambeth right across the board being discussed right across the board. The issues will be agreed by a range of people so that no one interest can dominate but all groups can then bring their own viewpoint to the table. Big strategic issues will be discussed at a local level and vice versa.

The questions we are asking are below with a couple of remarks about what this might mean for you.

1. Are there other issues or areas that the Safer Neighbourhood Board should be working on or considering?

We were given five different areas to focus on – are they the right ones? How might they be done better? Who should be involved?


2. Lambeth is committed to engaging people as much as possible in the decisions that affect them. Are there other ways you would like to be involved in decisions about crime and policing?

Who do you go to for help or to report crime? Do you know who your Neighbourhood Watch or Tenants Associaiton is and how they can help you? Are you aware of your Safer Neighbourhood Panel or your local Councillors who can report things for you?


3. Are these the right members of the Safer Neighbourhood Board? Are there other people or groups who should be represented?

Who would represent your views on this board, if not directly then how would your issues feed through to them? Is anyone missing who would be able to represent you and your views better? How would you like your views represented


4. Do you think these are suitable working arrangements for the board, or is there something else you would like to see?

How and where else should business be conducted? Will this information get through to you how and when you need it? How do you want to hold your representatives to account for expressing views given elsewhere?

Fundamentally a problem shared is a problem halved is at the heart of this move to tackle crime and disorder and improve policing right across Lambeth yet too often people only end up considering the issue immediately affecting themselves.

Individuals and groups need to be able to get resolution to their problem locally, but this also needs to be escalated in order that trends and strategic responses can be formulated.

I will be doing a series of blog posts over the next month about different aspects which I hope will encourage people to send in a response and maybe even get involved with finding the solutions to issues affecting them or their neighbours.

There is a much more detailed outline of the thinking behind this consultation here which was produced by a working group co-chaired by myself and the Borough Commander, involving representatives from the Safer Neighbourhood Panel Chairs, the Community Police Consultative Group and the Independent Advisory Group.

Many thanks for your consideration

Cllr Jack Hopkins



Author: jackhopkins

Labour Councillor for Oval ward in London Borough of Lambeth, and Cabinet Member for Jobs and Growth covering economic development, regeneration, planning and entrepreneurship. (formerly Community Safety) Interested in partnerships, training and development, social mobility and Arsenal.

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