Inquiry into community policing in Scotland
The UNISON Scotland Submission
To the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee
On their call for Written Evidence on their inquiry into community
policing in Scotland
UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to respond
to the call for written evidence from the Scottish Parliament's
Justice Committee regarding the above inquiry. UNISON Scotland
believes it is important for any inquiry into community policing
in Scotland looks at the roles of community wardens and other
Therefore, UNISON Scotland's response will focus
mainly on the role of community wardens and the potential for
further civilian roles in assisting the policing of communities.
Community wardens were introduced in Scotland
progressively from around 2003. Their role was to act as a deterrent
to antisocial behaviour and provide reassurance to those whose
lives were affected by crime, the fear of crime and antisocial
behaviour. Whilst the majority of wardens do not have enforcement
powers, they liaise closely with the police and local councils,
acting as the ‘eyes and ears' of the communities they serve.
Benefits of Community Wardens
Fergus Ewing MSP, Minister for Community Safety,
recently praised Scotland's Community Wardens by saying that
they are playing an "increasingly constructive" role
in supporting safe, strong neighbourhoods.
In 2007 the then Scottish Executive commissioned
research into the Community Warden schemes in Scotland. This
culminated in two reports, ‘National Evaluation of Scotland's
Community Wardens' and ‘The Impact of Local Antisocial Behaviour
Strategies at the Neighbourhood Level' which both highlighted
examples of good practice where community wardens have made
a positive impact on the areas they serve.
Underpinning much of the research was the idea
of the wardens as the "eyes and ears" of the community: identifying
community concerns and then either dealing with these or liaising
with the appropriate agencies, be these the police fire and
rescue or local authority departments.
A key component of successful warden schemes is
the ability of the wardens to engage with their local community
and to earn their trust and respect. A number of community initiatives
have achieved this including in Angus where wardens, while attending
a resident's association, were made aware of problems of young
people not being able to take part in organised leisure activities
as their parents could not afford the costs. As a result the
wardens identified a funding source enabling the young people
to participate in these activities. Another example of good
practice includes the wardens scheme in Ferguslie Park, Renfrewshire
where wardens established and supported several projects including
a junior wardens' board game to highlight issues of antisocial
behaviour to younger members of the community.
In Dundee wardens have been successful in building
both community and professional working relationships, to the
extent that other service providers now use the wardens to engage
with the local community. Agencies such as social work, which
are sometimes viewed with suspicion by young people, have used
the wardens to make introductions. Young people trust the wardens
and feel less threatened or intimidated by a person introduced
to them by the wardens.
The warden scheme in Dundee was also highlighted
as evidence of good practice in information sharing between
wardens and partner agencies including the police, noise wardens
and antisocial behaviour teams.
The main benefit of the wardens, as perceived
by the police in various case study areas, was their value in
gathering intelligence. The role of the wardens as "professional
witnesses" was also identified, with the wardens being able
to monitor situations before the police arrived and take notes
that could then be passed on and used as evidence in court.
Whilst high visibility in the community is a characteristic
of all wardens' services, some schemes have developed innovative
approaches to this. The Inverclyde service has attempted to
develop a brand image for the wardens making use of slogans
such as "You talk, we listen". The use of such slogans
in the community increases visibility and promotes the wardens
as a friendly and approachable local service, developing positive
associations in the mind of the local community.
In addition to visibility, it is important for
schemes to operate with a degree of flexibility, ensuring that
wardens are visible in the right places at the right times.
An example of this was the extension of patrol areas to include
school premises during the holiday period as seen in South Lanarkshire
and Dumfries where wardens monitored an exclusion zone around
local schools throughout the holidays. In Clackmannanshire the
HMI Education report praised the "Schools Out" initiative
and its success in reducing the cost of vandalism, a reduction
amounting to £11,000 during one summer holiday period.
Wardens in Dundee maintain high visibility in
the local community by targeting some of their patrols on sensitive
areas. Wardens are regularly present to escort older residents
home when the local bingo hall closes, building relationships
with the local community whilst providing reassurance and reducing
fear of crime. The Vulnerable Adults Initiative in Perth and
Kinross involves wardens visiting victims of crime and antisocial
behaviour for a period of time following the incident to provide
reassurance and reduce fear of crime.
An economic evaluation of the community warden
schemes found that community wardens appeared to have been relatively
effective in the case study neighbourhoods and were visible
to the majority of residents. The impact of wardens was threefold.
Firstly, their presence helped to reduce antisocial behaviour
by deterring potential perpetrators, reporting incidents and
acting as professional witnesses. Secondly, they acted as a
conduit for community intelligence, including informing other
agencies about complaints from residents or visible signs of
antisocial behaviour such as vandalism and graffiti, enabling
swift and appropriate action to be taken. Thirdly, they had
a community development and reassurance role that increased
residents' sense of empowerment and engagement with local agencies
and thereby may lead to a reduction in antisocial behaviour
in the longer term.
UNISON Scotland believes that, as with community
warden schemes, there may be further scope for other initiatives
to assist in the policing of communities which do not rely solely
on the use of uniformed police officers.
Further consideration should also be given to
the role of community support officers or their equivalent.
For instance, Police Community Support Officers now constitute
6% of the total workforce in English police forces. The use
of community wardens in Scottish local government has given
a valuable insight into the positive role these staff can play
in improving community safety, to complement not substitute
for police officers.
UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to contribute
to this inquiry into community policing in Scotland. We have
highlighted the varied roles carried out by community wardens
and the benefits that they provide to the communities that they
serve while also raising the potential for further scope for
other initiatives to assist in the policing of communities which
do not rely solely on the use of uniformed police officers.