The Community Trigger has been piloted in Manchester, Brighton and Hove, Boston and West Lindsey in Lincolnshire, and the London Borough of Richmond.
The Community Trigger is activated if a certain threshold has been passed. This varies from place to place but the Home Office have said that at a minimum it can be activated:
If you have reported 3 separate incidents of anti-social behaviour and not received a satisfactory response; or
If 3 individuals in the local community have reported similar incidents of ASB and are dissatisfied with the response.
Complaints must be made within a 6 month period but can be made to different organisations.
An evaluation report about all 5 pilot schemes was published in May 2013 designed to then form best practice guidelines for all Local Authorities.
Summary of Findings
1. ASB Occurrence
For each pilot area a summary is provided of the particular characteristics of the area and an idea of how many incidents of anti-social behaviour were reported over the trial period. Bizarrely, however, there is no standard overview of the number of incidents reported in total, making it very difficult to get a sense of how the triggers match up to the total number of incidents.
For example, in West Lindsey we are told that there were 7 repeat victims of ASB and that Lincolnshire Police had 84 calls from repeat victims and 38 calls from people classed as vulnerable. Yet without knowing the total number of reported incidents specifically relating to West Lindsey that were made to the Council and Police, we cannot easily deduce whether the 4 triggers activated sounds reasonable.
Similarly for Manchester, we are told that the City Council Anti-Social Behaviour Team receives on average 3,500 complaints of ASB, crime and disorder per year, but we do not know how many the Police received, nor how many of the City Council ones are actually ASB.
We have a little more information for the London Borough of Richmond, aided by the fact that RHP, the largest social landlord in Richmond and part of the trial, published its own report in March 2013.
In the six month period, April – September 2012, Richmond Council received 2,987 reports of anti-social behaviour and Richmond Police received 3,909 reports. So in a six month period there would be approximately 7,000 anti-social behaviour reports. However, since the Community Trigger Pilot went live in August 2012, only 2 Community Triggers were initiated through Richmond Council’s online reporting system and crucially, neither actually met the Community Trigger threshold! This represents just 0.02%!
2. The Threshold
Each area can choose the threshold they want to set, and this was certainly evident in the pilot with thresholds set as follows:
|Brighton and Hove||Incident reported once before and no action taken within a week.
Incident affects more than one household
|West Lindsey and Boston||ASB reported 3 times in previous 12 months without satisfactory service.|
|Manchester||If victim has complained 3 or more times in last 6 months without satisfactory response
5 individuals in the local community have complained separately in the past 6 months without satisfactory response
If complained once about incident or crime motivated by hatred and consider no action has been taken.
|Richmond||If victim has reported 3 times in last 6 months
If 5 individuals have reported similar incidents in last 6 months
Brighton and Hove have taken an exemplary position with such a low threshold though they will be monitoring this going forwards if it gets to a situation where agencies cannot cope with the volume of triggers.
One of the reasons given to determine how each area might set their local threshold is availability of resources. This should be irrelevant if the focus is to be truly on the victim. In any case, to avoid confusion in a tool that is already quite difficult to explain to the public, we suggest a standardised threshold would be more appropriate and cause less confusion.
3. Numbers of Community Triggers
Across the 5 areas there were a total of 27 triggers received. Only 15 of these actually met the threshold and of these only 6 resulted in further action being taken.
A couple of quotes from victims using the trigger indicate the power of this tool and the potential it has to make a difference:
“As soon as we pressed it [the community trigger] things just really changed for the better. Previously agencies had seemed powerless, but all of a sudden you had someone saying they were going to sort it out for you.”
“Although I didn’t get the full action I wanted, I’m very glad I used the trigger as there have been a number of positive consequences. We were given the specific name of a person to communicate with [which hadn’t happened before] and this was very reassuring. The community trigger made it clearer and easier to see what action was taken, it gave us a focal point.”
4. Multi-Agency Working
One of the triggers which resulted in further action being taken involved incidents that had taken place over eight years and had been reported to the police and housing provider, but the Local Authority had no knowledge of the case and as a result of the trigger, the agencies worked together to find a solution not previously explored. What an encouragement to the victim!
Conversely, however, Boston’s first community trigger ran into problems when the housing association reviewing the case was not allowed the access they needed to information held by Lincolnshire Police. The Police Federation advised Lincolnshire Police not to release this information as they felt it could be used in a subsequent official complaint against the officers. Sadly, the victim’s needs were not prioritised.
The report concludes from this the importance of having all agencies on board and in agreement about how triggers will be dealt with, stressing that there needs to be trust between agencies that the trigger is a process of problem solving and finding solutions for the victim, not an investigatory complaints process.
There is a particularly damning picture painted of the Community Safety Partnerships in the HMIC 2010 report “Anti-social Behaviour: Stop the rot” which does not inspire confidence in agency partnership working, so crucial for the Community Trigger to be effective.
The report states that some partnerships were focused on working together rather than working for the public, some focus on strategy rather than delivery, and on process rather than the victim’s experience (ie. bureaucracy!) and that many interventions took significant amounts of time to be delivered. Particularly concerning, an escalation of interventions, coupled with a culture of meetings, meant that some problems were not gripped and as a result victimisation continued. This is not a promising backdrop against which to set the Community Trigger.
5. Communications and Publicity
The Community Trigger was publicised in the different areas where it was piloted, in a variety of ways including on websites, posters, local radio and local newspapers. The low numbers of triggers hint at a lack of awareness as it seems improbable that agencies have performed with such outstanding results, especially when the Home Office reported that only half of anti-social behaviour victims surveyed felt police and their partners had dealt effectively with local ASB (“Putting Victims First”, p8).
8/10 of Manchester’s cases were activated because the victim was invited to consider using the community trigger at the point of them contacting the Local Authority which would suggest they were not aware they had this tool at their disposal. In Boston they undertook a Community Safety Consultation survey in September 2012 and of the 338 respondents only 14.5% had heard of the community trigger and of these under half knew how to activate it. In Richmond the Community Trigger Panel concluded that more innovative publicity and ongoing publicity are required to raise greater awareness of the Community Trigger tool amongst anti-social behaviour victims and the public.
From the information available we would suggest that the Community Trigger pilots have not been entirely successful. The trigger, designed as an effective and useful tool for victims, has hardly been activated, and even when it has, more often than not, the threshold was either not met or no further action was taken.
Also, arguably, the trigger pilots present an artificial situation especially where the areas chosen already work well in partnerships, eg. Richmond where we learn in the RHP report that “We have been very lucky at Richmond as the partnership process we had already in place with our partnering agencies meant we already had excellent working practices and information sharing guidelines set in place which made the pilot run effectively and smoothly from the outset” Sergeant Michael Coughlan, ASB lead.
The pilot agencies will also have been on alert to improve their service over the six month period to avoid any triggers being activated. Once rolled out nationwide, on an ongoing basis, this artificial environment should hopefully be eliminated.
What is of concern for the implementation of the legislation is how the trigger and its process will be publicised. RHP in Richmond concludes that publicity needs to be more innovative and ongoing. Reading between the lines it would seem that there was insufficient public awareness of the trigger which renders the tool a failure. You can guarantee the vulnerable victims crying out for help and not receiving any will be the ones who are completely unaware of this resource available to them.
The mechanics of it are also vague – the lack of a standardised trigger, how to pull the trigger and particularly, how anyone would know 3 or more people have reported the same incident/behaviour without adequate response.
As far as we understand it, the community trigger will come into law at some point in 2014. Each area is likely to launch their trigger at different points, again confusing for the public, but we would expect a deadline to be published as to when every Local Authority will have a community trigger process in place.
The community trigger pilots in Manchester, Richmond, Boston, West Lindsey, and Brighton and Hove continue in operation. Meanwhile Leeds announced its own 6 month pilot ahead of the legislation coming into force as did Mendip in Somerset. We hope others follow suit to implement this tool as soon as possible as it does have the potential to serve the public in a powerful way.