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ESSEX

PCC Launches New Crime Fighting Fund

I am delighted to be able to announce the first grants to some fantastic organisations under the Police and Crime Commissioner New Initiatives Fund.

As of July 15, 2013, I am pleased to be able to distribute £148,000 amongst 17 organisations working to tackle youth offending, alcohol and drug abuse, to provide crime prevention work and to support victims.  Another £250,000 will shortly be granted to groups working to reduce domestic abuse, for rural and countywide initiatives involving the Special Constabulary and Crimestoppers, and for a brand new community messaging system to get crime information out to local communities faster than ever before.

I am committed to helping local people combat crime and anti-social behaviour in their area, and the New Initiatives Fund is designed to provide funding to some of the very best local projects.  In Essex, less than one percent of the funding received for policing is spent on crime prevention, and I am determined to increase that proportion.  We must be more proactive in tackling crime and criminal activity, and not simply spend money on clearing up the mess after crime and harm has occurred.

In January this year, I made the case for increasing the portion of council tax used to fund policing in Essex by just over a penny a day.   Compared with other shire counties, residents of Essex pay one of the lowest amounts in council tax for their policing.  This was a difficult decision made partly to support police funding but also to create a brand new fund of around £500,000 to support local initiatives designed to tackle local crime and anti-social behaviour: the New Initiatives Fund.

We received over 130 bids with the total funding request amounting to over £2.3 million.  Unfortunately, we have had to disappoint some really committed and hardworking people, but there will be a second wave of funding shortly, where remaining and fresh bids will be considered.

In the area of youth offending, the Wakering Young People’s Community Project, the Essex Boys and Girls Club, Family Solutions in West Essex, the Witham Boys Brigade and Essex Youthbuild have all received funding to help them perform vital work in keeping our young people occupied in constructive activities, especially during the holiday periods.

I am especially delighted to be able to provide some funding for Only Cowards Carry, founded by Caroline Shearer to conduct educational and engagement work to discourage and deter young people from carrying knives.  

Many of our towns have a busy and vibrant nightlife, and occasionally people get into trouble or difficulties.  I’ve had the privilege of going out with the SOS Bus team in Colchester and it was a tremendous experience.  Often volunteers from the SOS Bus and Open Road step in and offer practical and emotional support either directly or working with partners such as the police.   Their skilled work keeps people safe and takes pressure off the Ambulance service and the NHS. So, I’m delighted to have been able to provide some New Initiatives Fund money to bring the SOS Bus from Colchester to Chelmsford on Wednesday nights.  This is partnership working in the community at its best. 

We’re also providing funding for a specific RiskAvert Programme to be run by the Essex Drug and Alcohol Action Team, working directing with vulnerable people, and for 57 West to work with people with alcohol or drug issues.

We’re also collaborating with Community Safer Partnerships to deliver targeted local initiatives.  For instance, we’re supporting a project in Maldon district aimed at reducing youth ASB, and a pilot initiative in Epping Forest named “Operation Home Safe” to tackle an emerging burglary trend.  The New Initiatives Fund will also help with the expansion of the “Crucial Crew” concept from young people to the older generations, spreading practical crime prevention knowledge across our communities.  In Castle Point and Rochford, we’ll be supporting volunteers involved in the Safer Homes, Safer Lives project, and in Basildon exploring new ideas for reducing ASB. 

I’ve had the privilege of spending time with the Street Pastors and I’m thrilled that the New Initiatives Fund will help to support the creation of a Street Pastor group in Saffron Walden.  I’m sure their work will be greatly welcomed.

In Southend, we’re providing funding for a 10 month pilot programme to provide home visits to vulnerable elderly residents, helping to keep them safe.  In Braintree, some New Initiative Fund money will be provided to the “Cut It Out” campaign letting people know how they can challenge and stop domestic abuse.

Reducing domestic abuse is one of the key areas of focus in the Police and Crime Plan for Essex, and we’re currently in the final stages of selecting the organisations who will receive around £135,000 of New Initiatives Fund money for this crucial work.  I will announce those decisions next week.

We’re also going to use nearly £100,000 of the fund to support the Special Constabulary in rural parts of Essex, and for a series of highly targeted Crimestoppers projects in our county.   Many Specials live and work in rural areas, and I’m working with Chief Officer Leon Dias on a project to see how we can use their local knowledge directly for the benefits of our rural communities. 

I’ve also been hugely impressed by Crimestoppers, who are a crucial part in the fight against crime.  The charity has some really interesting ideas for projects which would be tailored to our county’s needs, and I’m determined to progress this work.

I’m committed to improving the flow of information about crime and suspicious behaviour between Essex Police and the people of Essex.  The evidence clearly suggests that when a burglary has taken place in a particular street, there is a heightened risk of another property in the area being targeted by criminals.  I want residents and businesses to know about crime in their communities, so we’ll be rolling out a brand new community messaging system in the coming weeks.  If you are a member of a Watch group, be it a residential Neighbourhood Watch or a specialist organisation such as Farm Watch or Retail Watch, then Essex Police will be sending out details of crimes to specific communities via this new messaging system.  The force will also be better able to receive information about suspicious behaviour than before.  The Watch groups perform fantastic work, and I encourage everyone who isn’t already a member to sign up now.

The community messaging system will cost around £24,000 and will be jointly funded by the New Initiatives Fund and with money from the Proceeds of Crime Act. In my judgement, it is entirely fitting that money seized from criminals is being used to make it more difficult for them to commit crime.

Great work is going on across Essex to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour, and I am delighted that New Initiatives Fund money will be used to support work tailored for the needs of local communities.

Details of successful and unsuccessful bids can be seen on the Decisions page of the website here, marked PCC/0033/13.

Nick Alston

Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex

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