The Shaftesbury Ward Safer Neighbourhood Team meeting takes place tonight at 7pm in the Shaftesbury Club, 128, Lavender Hill.

I’m a fan of neighbourhood policing, but one of its weaknesses, I think, is that the public are not particularly empowered to hold the police to account. Part of this is in the weakness of the data provided.

To a degree this is not the fault of police (at least locally) since they are police or community support officers, not statisticians. They can hardly be expected to also give a robust analysis of crime data. The result is that members of the public tend to get a list of numbers at the meeting that are hard to make sense of and offer no real context.

I suspect the police may argue that mapping provides that accountability, but I’m not sure that in ordinary circumstances mapping enables people to get a feel for what is happening and the overall trends: in other words, are the police winning or losing?

Which prompted me to quickly play with the figures from the Met’s mapping website.

I’m not sure I established the answer.

My first attempt was to compare the figures for total offences in the ward over the past two years.

Crimes by month

This compares the only monthly ward data available, from February 2010 until January 2012. My thinking was that comparing year for year would reveal any seasonal trends and allow an easy comparison, the 2011/12 year should be lower if the police are succeeding in reducing crime.

However, the figures are relatively low (between 58 and 133 crimes per month) and there are all sorts of factors that can create peaks and troughs that skew the comparison.

My next try was a cumulative figure for the two years in question, in other words, the total crime since the start point (in this case February 2010 and February 2011).

Total notifiable offences in Shaftesbury ward cumulative figures by month, February 2010 - January 2012.

My thinking is that this helps make the graphs easier to read, because they don’t have the jumps, and makes it clearer that year on year performance is better or worse. However, I think it does make it a bit harder to see the comparative trend.

My final attempt at graphing performance was a running cumulative total, so the data point for each month contains the total crime for the preceding 12 months.

This has the major disadvantage that the Met only provide 24 months of data, so there is no ward data available before February 2010. The only older data is at borough level and the most recent provided is for the 2008/09 financial year. To see if it made sense I bodged something together from the London Datastore, which has crime rates by ward up to the 2009/2010 financial year. Far from perfect, but it means I can create data for February 2009 to January 2010 that isn’t too far wide of the mark.

Total notifiable offences in Shaftesbury ward rolling 12 month total by month, February 2010 - January 2012.

[NB My assumption here is that crime divides equally by month. The rate for 2009/10 was 90.4 crimes per 1,000 people, and the population estimate was 13,545. Meaning a total of 1,224 crimes or 102 a month. The rate for 2008/2009 was 93.6 crimes per 1,000, and the population estimate was 13,510. Meaning a total of 1,265 crimes or 105 a month.]

Imperfect data aside, I think I prefer this one. It does make crime look high, since a twelve month figure is plotted to a single month, however, it removes the sudden changes of monthly data, makes it clear that, overall crime is lower, but also retains a sense of trend, since the line moves up when crime increases compared to the same month from the previous year.

Would publishing these regularly help the ward panels hold their SNTs to account? I don’t know. Indeed, not being a statistician myself I don’t know how valid they are. However, as a resident, I feel I have a better idea of the general crime picture and trends in the ward because of them. What do you think?

One of the things I think we do well in Wandsworth is enabling people to take responsibility for their own lives. The flagship of this is the low council tax, meaning people keep as much of their own money as possible. But I’m rather pleased with the contributions Wandsworth’s community safety team offer.

Neighbourhood Watch is perhaps the most obvious example, but we are always out and about offering advice and practical help and working with partners, like the police or fire brigade to residents.

A lesser known example is AlertBox, which was relatively recently installed in Northcote Road. The system is remarkably simple, a box with a few buttons that can be used to pass custom alerts to neighbouring shops with a linked unit. These can range from a low-level alert (perhaps a few suspicious people loitering) to a request for immediate help.

The AlertBoxes went in a series of smaller retailers on Northcote Road a few months ago and the manufacturer shared their recent appraisal with me. It’s been a clear success – 100% of people who had to use the box had a response from neighbouring shops. 91% felt it had reduced fear of isolation and 80% felt it had reduced fear of anti-social behaviour.

But most importantly 89% felt it had improved their relationship with neighbouring retailers and 93% felt it had improved their relationship with the police.

A real example of how, in many cases, life massive improvements are possible not with the state providing the solution, but in enabling people to provide the solution – in this case a contribution to the cost and some administrative work in setting it up. A fantastic result for everyone concerned.

I’ve become a regular visitor to the Wandsworth Junior Citizen scheme over the years, and never fail to be impressed.

The scheme runs twice a year for year five children and exposes them to controlled risk, teaching them about potential danger and how they can be safe in a variety of situations. Yesterday I was observing (along with a representative from the Department of Children who was keen to see what we do) children from two Putney Schools – Brandlehow and Our Lady Queen of Heaven – being put through their paces by the council staff, police, fire service, paramedics and volunteers.

One of the amazing things is how much potentially life saving information is absorbed when the day is combined with the work done in schools – during the simulated fire (complete with smoke) Brandlehow pupils knew exactly what to do before the firefighters even told them!

It one of those schemes of which I am very proud, since it makes a real difference and I have no doubt has probably saved a few lives in the 20 years it has been running.

The latest crime figures show crime continues to fall in Wandsworth, and that it remains the safest inner London borough – there’s been a 6.9% drop in overall crime in the past year.

But what next?

One of the things the council, along with the police and other partners, have been working on recently has been the strategic priorities. ┬áPart of this process is a public meeting, where we present the ‘draft’ priorities and members of the public can let us know what they think and their concerns.

The ‘Face the Public’ meeting is being held at 6pm on Thursday, 19 February, in the council chamber at the Town Hall. ┬áThe meeting should last no longer than 90 minutes.

If you are interested in your borough, and what is done to make it safer, come along and talk to us.

sb-park-estate-1873Just a reminder for local residents that work will be beginning on Monday next week on the Shaftesbury Park Estate’s local safety scheme.

The council consulted on the scheme last year, and the response was overwhelmingly in favour – the least popular option had 77% support!

The works will involve raising the junctions of some of the main roads on the estate to slow traffic in general, and make those specific junctions much safer. It will take a few weeks until they are all finished and diversions will be in place, so you might want to give yourself a couple of minutes on your journeys until they are done.

For information, the five junctions to be raised (with the level of support for each) are:

  1. Sabine Road / Eland Road (80%)
  2. Sabine Road / Grayshott Road (80%)
  3. Sabine Road / Tyneham Road (78%)
  4. Elsley Road / Eland Road (77%)
  5. Elsley Road / Grayshott Road (77%)