Community Trigger Confusion
The more I hear from people who have tried to activate the Community Trigger, the more I must conclude that there is confusion at every level.
I had thought the confusion was reserved for the actual victims – something I have documented extensively – from the perplexity of it going by two names to the baffling threshold. However, the confusion is much more widespread than this to include individuals within the agencies itself, either not knowing what it is about, or simply incapable of processing it properly.
I am left even more confused this week on finding that the Home Office has published its updated statutory guidance to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 in the quietest way possible (on Christmas Eve!) and in the process completely ignoring suggestions to use it as an opportunity to promote the Community Trigger. As such it remains still something of a hidden mystery.
You perhaps think I exaggerate. Well, we have recently been involved in some research with individuals who have activated the Community Trigger and some of the experiences illustrate just how bad the situation is. Not a single example of an effective process with results. The reality is starkly different:
“I filed the community trigger I think around February, March time. By June I think it was I still had nothing from them so I was obviously chasing them and I think it took about two months for me even just to get a letter of a first response.”
“They said it didn’t meet the criteria, it wasn’t deemed significant enough and therefore it wouldn’t be triggered. Which I found quite strange, but there you go.”
“To be honest I don’t know whether it’s made a difference or not because there hasn’t been any feedback on it so I couldn’t tell you whether things are quiet because that has done something about it or whether it’s just the time of year or because the police are going down when I’m calling them out, but I have no idea.”
“That meeting [case review] was on the 31st of August. After numerous requests through the supervisor of the council for the letter I was promised, I got it in March.”
“So I filled it in and the next week, a week later, the police contacted me and I thought ‘Ooh, that worked quickly!’, but of course it was nothing to do with that. They had randomly contacted me to say that because their ABC had failed they were going to take it to some meeting or other with the people who led on this kind of stuff, and then they were going to let me know what happened in that meeting.”
Confusion at all levels
There are many concerns over the actual Community Trigger/ASB Case Review and what it is trying to achieve. I had naively thought, however, that the basic processes of informing someone about their Community Trigger would have been followed. It appears not.
Confusion reigns and I have to admit it all starts to look rather farcical. We have been contacted by victims who need to activate their local Trigger through the police’s 101 number. Yet when they request the Trigger, there is confusion on the other end of the line – the call handler does not know what it is!
People are being kept in the dark until someone who happens to have heard of the Community Trigger such as the local MP or an individual (and clued-up) PCSO or housing officer suggests it. Yet how frustrating for them – a victim finally finds an official who wants to help, but then they are thwarted by a process where the tight deadlines set out in legislation are not met and no feedback is given to the victim.
I have spoken to perfectly reasonable people who just want to understand what can and cannot be done. They just want to be informed and be treated with the courtesy they deserve, and which they are promised on the council, police or housing association’s website. They have taken the time to complete a Community Trigger application form and yet no-one can be bothered to get in contact with them, never mind give them the single point of contact they are supposed to have!
Can it ever be fit for purpose?
Only if the multiple layers of confusion are stripped away. If the Community Trigger is really ever going to help victims of persistent anti-social behaviour, it must be made simpler. If non-vulnerable people are wading in mists of confusion over this, coupled with downright incompetence on the part of some officials, how can the most vulnerable in our society ever have access to it? Those with learning disabilities, or those with a physical or mental health condition, or ethnic minorities with English as a second language, or older people? The list goes on and we all know they represent a high percentage of those who are most affected by persistent anti-social behaviour.
Where can they go if all local agencies fail them? The Home Office and the Victims’ Commissioner will send victims back to their local areas to get results to their local issues. My sense is that Police and Crime Commissioners are the best placed to stand up and be counted – they can be a strong advocate for victims eligible for the Community Trigger. They have authority and clout to see processes improved and action taken, but without a mandate, it is down to personal choice.
As we move towards 2018, we will continue to campaign for the Community Trigger to be made fit for purpose and for people to put words into action and actually put victims first.