Look back at our People, Partnerships and Prevention Conference
Hundreds of people working in partnership to make Essex a safer place came together to focus on crime prevention initiatives.
Victims, practitioners, policymakers and academics shared knowledge, experience and ideas at the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex conference to bring about new ways of making Essex a safer place for all.
The People, Partnerships and Prevention event, at Colchester Stadium, focussed on some of the most harmful and impactful crimes affecting society and asked what more could be done together to bring about prevention and early intervention.
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, opened the conference saying: “This conference is about people, partnerships and prevention. It is about all of us working together to make Essex a safer place than it is now.
“Essex is a good place to live. The approach people have to life is second to none. There is a ‘can do’ attitude and enthusiasm for life.
“It is about sharing a common focus to make a big difference to people in our communities. It has to be around prevention and stopping things happening in the first place.”
Essex Police Chief Constable BJ Harrington shared the sentiment, saying: “It is our work with you where we stand to make the most significant progress.
“A strong and effective partnership requires us all to do our bit. Policing has an important role to play. But, we are only as strong as the partnerships in this room. We deal with crime, but we cannot remove the issues that mean people commit crime.
“It is the mission of Essex Police to keep on working in partnership to keep on preventing crime and together making Essex as safe as it possibly can be.”
Essex Police being 700 officers stronger, the £30,000 investment in extra independent domestic abuse advisors and independent sexual abuse advisors, and a drop in crime by 4.4 per cent this year compared to the same period in 2019 were just a few of the success stories celebrated on the day.
Lived experiences were shared by Gavin McKenna, who set up Building Lives Project to support vulnerable young people at risk of crime, serious violence and criminal exploitation, and Ryan Hart, who speaks around the world on the hidden victims of coercive control and domestic abuse.
Gavin once carried a knife to school to protect himself out of fear. His father was in and out of prison and his mother suffered from poor mental health. He told how the only role models he had were criminals and the only consistent authority in his life was the police. He said nobody stopped to question the reasons behind his bad behaviour.
He said: “Nobody understood what was going on. I wasn’t a ‘gang member’; I was afraid.
“The biggest thing I wish I’d had as a child was someone to put their arm around me and to explain what would happen if I had continued on that path. I needed that oversight.
“Children are products of their environment. All I had was access to negative opportunities and negative role models. Can you change the environment for young people?”
Ryan told his family’s story of 25 years of coercive control at the hands of his father, who went on to murder Ryan’s mother and sister before turning a gun on himself.
He explained that victims do not always recognise themselves as such and that he wished he’d realised so he could have reached out to the help that was available for his family.
Surgeon Jonathan Shepherd brought his extensive research and proven work behind The Cardiff Model for Violence Prevention to Essex, highlighting the role A&E departments have to play in preventing crime – with around 50 per cent of all violent crime going unreported to the police but being registered at hospitals.
During Tyler May’s speech, she urged people to stand if they had experienced sexual discrimination, inappropriate behaviour or unwanted sexual attention, before asking delegates to look around the room at the number of people impacted.
The teenager represented the Young Essex Assembly, the elected youth council for Essex, to raise awareness, start conversations and promote cultural change around sexism, sexual harassment and sexual violence.
She told how four out of five young women experience sexual harassment and said: “I was 11 when I joined the youth service in 2016. Back then, I did not see the severity of the situation. I knew I was scared to walk home along, but I didn’t understand why. I didn’t know why the safety talks were aimed at us girls.
“It started to hit me as I grew up. You become more cautious, stop wearing certain things, have your parents on speed dial when you walk home alone as you feel uneasy and fearful. Fearful of becoming one of those four out of five.
“We need to continue these conversations.”
Tyler told about the Unacceptable project, a response from Essex County Council to national concerns about sexual violence in schools, with 14,500 young people and professionals watching a performance between January and March.
Councillor Louise McKinlay, deputy leader of Essex County Council, spoke about the newly formed Safety Advisory Group which is leading on improving women’s safety across the county, as well as the Levelling Up project to improve residents’ lives.
She said: “If we are to make a difference to people’s lives, it is through partnership working.”
Partners attended workshops at the conference to hear more about the extensive work going on in the county to prevent crime from happening in the first place.
Workshops focused on protecting women and girls, preventing serious violence on the streets, reducing deaths and serious injuries on the roads, and using data to prevent fire incidents.
Jane Gardner, Deputy Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, closed the event saying: “You do not have to have had lived experience to care. Some of us have had lived experiences and some of us have not. My reflection from today is that we have a room full of people who care.
“By working together, we will collectively make the difference, of that I am sure because of the people in front of me.
“We are doing so much. You are all amazing.”