Copeland has been piloting a multi-agency hub approach to address issues around crime and anti-social behaviour. This successful approach has been based on an existing strong working relationship and high-level support and commitment between Copeland Borough Council and Cumbria Police.
The local context
The coastal borough of Copeland, in western Cumbria, has had a multi-agency local focus hub in place since November 2016. Copeland Hub’s aim is to enable agencies to work effectively together to tackle issues including ASB, low-level crime and criminal damage which would benefit from a multi-agency response. The partners also take targeted preventative action to reduce incidents of ASB and crime, working with schools and the voluntary and community sector on a variety of projects aimed at developing good citizenship.
Pooling knowledge and expertise
The Hub facilitates collaboration between a number of partner agencies. The key partners are Copeland Borough Council, which employs the Hub manager, and Cumbria Constabulary – which provides a PC who is Hub coordinator, two PCs who work as problem solvers, and a Hub PCSO. The Hub is based in Whitehaven police station, and the initial set-up costs were funded by the Office of the Cumbria Police and Crime Commissioner.
Other partners include local housing providers; district council teams such as environmental health, housing and licensing; Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service; NHS organisations; and Cumbria County Council. Voluntary sector partners include Age UK, mental health groups, and drug and alcohol services. As well as the Hub team itself, other agencies use desks in the office – including the fire service, drug and alcohol services, probation and the largest housing provider.
Any partner agency can refer an incident or issue into the Hub that would benefit from a partnership approach. By pooling local knowledge and expertise, patterns can be identified and the response can be quick and efficient, bringing partners together to provide effective early intervention.
The Hub is not directly funded, although funding for specific projects is available through the community safety partnership and other funding streams. The team quickly expanded their work to include proactive preventative activities, bringing more sustainable benefits to local communities. Much of this work is in partnership with schools, so it was difficult to deliver it during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Impact and outcomes
Preventative community projects have included:
- Working with the Brathay Trust to engage 13-16 year olds on the periphery of crime and ASB through activities, including an annual three-night outdoor activity centre visit.
- ‘Future Pathways’ – a nine-session programme which develops employability and life skills in secondary school pupils.
- Working with the Community Alcohol Partnership to tackle underage street drinking and alcohol-related ASB.
The team also reacts to clusters of ASB. For example, when escalating incidents linked to drink and drug use in Whitehaven town centre were impacting on local businesses and quality of life for residents, the police, council and multiple housing associations put a response in place. They used all the tools available including housing injunctions and evictions, a Public Spaces Protection Order banning street drinking, police patrol activity, warrants executed, Criminal Behaviour Orders imposed and leaflets delivered to every household.
There were some early interventions and ‘quick fixes’ which resulted in improvements, but it took 18 months to put all of the measures in place. As a result, the number of ASB incidents reduced to virtually zero. During this operation the neighbourhood policing team gathered 111 pieces of actionable intelligence which led to 35 arrests for various offences. They conducted 53 stop searches, 17 warrants and seized 16 vehicles. Eleven civil injunctions were issued by the courts following applications by the largest housing provider.
Neighbourhood Policing Sergeant David Macdonald said: “Tackling ASB in Whitehaven town centre was a big success story for the Hub approach. We hit every aspect of ASB and low-level criminality and virtually eradicated it from the area. Our approach involved each agency using their own powers but as part of an overall coordinated plan, being mindful of what everyone else was doing, making those individual efforts much more effective.”
Louise Coid, Copeland Borough Council’s Community Safety Officer, manages the Hub’s day-to-day activity. One of the key success factors was the solid foundation of partnership working already in place here, she said. “If you don’t have real buy-in from the major players then it’s a big challenge to get everyone on board. Everyone has to see the benefits of their involvement.”
Monthly partners’ meetings are used to agree priority locations, incidents, issues and funding applications that address the partnership’s priorities. This ensures that the setting of priorities addresses those issues most important to the community. “While we do have these formal monthly meetings, communication takes place in office conversations all the time, reflecting the fact that ASB is a daily issue – not a monthly issue.”
Having a central Hub has worked well in terms of sharing information and focusing the strengths of different agencies on particular issues. This ensures that interventions are appropriate, holistic, early, efficient and effective.
Copeland Hub is now embedded in service delivery and this ‘hub’ approach is now being rolled out across Cumbria’s five other council areas. Different hubs are at different stages of development, and the underpinning foundation of close partnership working varies between the areas. Copeland is receiving requests for advice from other areas across England that are interested in this approach.
- Strong and honest underpinning relationships between the partners must be in place before trying to implement a hub system.
- Co-location is essential, ideally within one of the main players (council or police). The Copeland team have had to work to ensure that it is seen as the partners’ hub, not a police hub.
- A hub approach allows for informal sharing of information, which creates opportunities to make connections that otherwise may not be seen.