Signs o' the times

In response to the debate over the BIG YELLOW SIGNS (warning us all that we are never safe at any time, no matter how much we might like to think we are), Cllr Dean Walton made some enquiries to Council officers, to see where they came from and how long they intend to stick around.

Here's the response he's received from the Community Safety team:

"The yellow signs were agreed as a tactical option by the Safer Lewisham Partnership Joint Action Group (JAG) which is the joint operational tasking group for the borough. These were erected as a result of the detailed data analysis across the borough targeting particular hotspots, linked to proactive work aiming to reduce overall levels of crime across the borough and in hotspots.

"The Partnership is aware that the use of high visibility advice boards can alarm some people, and therefore only use them for a limited period in areas where there has been a specific police request for them. The signs in Brockley will be taken down in the next couple of weeks.

"We are also currently working on a multi-million pound street lighting project which will also help make our streets safer."

Good news that they won't stick around for long, although the letter is nearly two weeks old now and we haven't noticed their disappearance yet. Also, better street lighting is something to be welcomed.

However, the fact that the decision to put up the signs in the first place was made by the Safer Lewisham Partnership Joint Action Group (JAG) shows up the problem. The group is comprised of representatives from the police and local safer neighbourhoods groups and is accountable to no-one. As a result they take these kinds of decisions without wider community consultation.

More fundamentally, the problem with this kind of group is that it is comprised of people who are (for understandable reasons) preoccupied with crime, to the virtual exclsion of any other kind of consideration. Of course, the police have a crucial role to play in these debates about our streets but they are not the only voice that matters - there a reason why police states get a bad rep.

Likewise, Safer Neighbourhoods groups tend to consist of people whose lives have been blighted by crime. It's totally reasonable that they should feel crime is the number one priority too - and it's noticeable that the people who've spoken up on behalf of the signs have nearly all declared themselves to have been victims of street crime.

The mindset of many people involved in Safer Neighbourhood Teams is that there's no point in planting new public flower beds because people will only vandalise them and our streets are besieged by criminals, so every lamppost needs a dire warning attached. Our outside world is there to be protected against, not enjoyed. It's a pretty miserable world view and one that is counter-productive, since it creates a poor quality public environment, which breeds more crime.

But not everyone feels that way. Not everyone wants to live their lives looking over their shoulders or suspisciously eyeing up every young man they pass in the street. Some people like to be able to walk down their own street, without constantly being reminded of danger.

The signs are due to leave and we are not uniquely afflicted, but in future, it would be nice to think that the opinions of the majority of people, who are not obsessed with crime, might be sought.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have friends who recently advertised for a flatmate. They found someone, they liked the place but were put off when they saw the signs. They send the message that Brockley is clearly a high crime area. Presumably neighbouring areas that don't have these signs are safe?

If warnings of crime are going to be issued by public authorities it should be consistent and on the basis of evidence that is open to examination. Otherwise they serve little purpose except to mislead.

Where is the crime in Brockley? Is it a secret?

ElijahBailey said...

""The yellow signs were agreed as a tactical option by the Safer Lewisham Partnership Joint Action Group (JAG) which is the joint operational tasking group for the borough. These were erected as a result of the detailed data analysis across the borough targeting particular hotspots, linked to proactive work aiming to reduce overall levels of crime across the borough and in hotspots."

They're just randomly pulling words out a hat aren't they?

lb said...

Sorry, I'm going to have to take issue with this one again. Safer Neighbourhoods teams aren't representative enough because they're likely to be composed of people obssessed with crime? Is this a serious argument?

lb said...

Also, this:

"The mindset of many people involved in Safer Neighbourhood Teams is that there's no point in planting new public flower beds because people will only vandalise them and our streets are besieged by criminals, so every lamppost needs a dire warning attached"

is a huge leap of logic, frankly, especially given the fact that the signs were stated to be a targeted initiative.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

I promise not to mentioned the word NIMBY.


opps!

lb said...

By the way, if you look at the mail JPM quoted in his post on the previous thread, it usues nearly exactly the same phrasing as the one sent to Cllr Walton.

They clearly have a standard copy-and-paste email they send out, hence the "couple of weeks" being repeated. Cllr Walton could just have read the thread, he'd have got all his answers there.

lb said...

And for my last point - high levels of worry about crime are not the preserve of a few nutjobs, believe me. According to the British Crime Survey, nearly a third of Londoners have a "high level of worry" about violent crime, and 18% about burglary.

[anonymous] If you want to know where the crime is in Brockley, why not contact the Safer Lewisham Partnership and do a FOIA request on their crime figures?

Anonymous said...

FOIA? Does it really require that sort of bureaucratic tooth pulling exercise to find out what is going on in my neibourhood?

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

I've just been to the safer neighbourhoods website. why does brockley have a sgt. on their team and telegraph hill only have Pc's??

And why oh why does the telegraph hill team use brockley police station, whereas the brockley team have a base on lewisham way....

...its all crazy!!?!?!

fabhat said...

Oh dear, I'd didn't realise that so you can't be concerned about the safety of your neighbourhood, as well as it's asthetic qualities? I'd better take down the windowboxes, stop picking up litter, and abandon that old mattress I've been waiting to take to the dump outside someone else's house...happy days are here again!

Anonymous said...

a "high level of worry" about crime is a shame but doesn't necessarily mean that there is a high level of crime. perceptions and reality are related not the same.


...and another weird post from AP&P, why does the lack of a Sgt worry you? are you saying that 3 stripes automatically make you some kind of crime fighting superhero?

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

yes, of course. Havnt you seen the sgts. in lewisham? They wear capes...

tyrwhitt michael said...

For those of you at a loose end tonight, there is a quiz on at the Talbot.

Providing of course you feel safe enough to venture out in the dark as far as Tyrhwitt Road!!

It starts at 8pm and although I like a good quiz I can't make it tonight sob sob!

Hope it goes well Rob....



.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the street lights scheme a PFI scheme with Croydon?

Could we end up with lamposts festooned with posters advertising Upvc windows and golf sales?

Anonymous said...

dont suppose we'll get streetlights appropriate to the conservation area.......

Anonymous said...

lb it's not a huge leap of logic, it's a fact that a lot of people in safer neighbourhood teams are the sort who'd happily introduce an 8pm curfew if they thought it might cut down on muggings. I've been to plenty of meetings with these people and a lot of them are cranks. All Nick sounds like he's saying is that they shouldn't be the only voice in the debate - what's wrong with that?

And a "targeted" initiative? I suppose we'll have to take their word for it that there is sophisticated science at work here...

Anonymous said...

oh and lb, your last point much proves the case against the signs - fear of crime is a big problem. Putting up these signs makes it worse.

patrick1971 said...

I've no doubt that Safer Neighbourhood teams are full of "cranks", but it's the same issue that we were talking about in relation to the Brockley Society and BXAG: they're the people who bother to get involved, so they're the ones who have a say on what happens. The catalyst for them becoming involved is having been the victim of crime, but the fact is that they are involved. It's fine to slag them off and say that there should be more consultation...if you really think that, get involved!

Tackling crime is always going to be a balance between a total free-for-all and an 8pm curfew for all.

Brockley Nick said...

@Patrick

You're right - respect is due to people who get involved in Safer Neighbourhood schemes. However, how we manage our streets is not simply a "crime" issue - you've mentioned two other local groups of people who care about the area and were motivated to get involved - so why, for example, were neither of those groups consulted? Why weren't our elected councilors?

patrick1971 said...

Oh, completely, Nick; I'm not absolving the SN group for not consulting anyone like the Brockley Society or the BXAG. I just don't think it should necessarily be criticised for its composition; being a victim of crime, especially violent crime, is no fun at all and I can understand how it colours your view of things.

And on a more mundane note, the SN group sounds like such a hotchpotch of different "stakeholders" that they probably felt that they'd consulted every man and his dog already, even though that wasn't the case!

Anonymous said...

The police will always want to put signs, security cameras and fences up - the important thing to ensure is that we have the appropriate checks and balances, to make sure the right solution is reached.

If the only check on police recommendations is a group of people paranoid about crime, then that's not going to lead to a balanced approach, which is why we have ended up with a situation where the large majority of people are unhappy with the action taken.

lb said...

I'm not sure that some of the comment on here shows an understanding of the way representation works. If the Brockley Cross Action Group, for example, really wants to get more involved in the management of crime issues in its area, it can presumably go through the Lewisham Strategic Partnership here and do so. The same goes for 'elected councillors'; the public have to show some initiative too rather than passively expecting to be 'consulted' about all decisions. As Patrick pointed out, there are already a wide number of interest groups represented in the Safer Lewisham Partnership (or Safer Lewisham Joint Action Group, surely one letter away from a hugely unfortunate acronym) and their minutes show that they regularly consult with local schools, transport bodies, and other bodies with no specific agenda to push.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but didn't someone labelled "JPM" give us a full report on this - weeks ago? It's posted somewhere here. He was told they'd be down in a few weeks too.

JPM said...

Indeed he did... and they are in Manor Avenue due to sensible citizens responding to a daft idea.
These signs are only there because the council wanted to get rid of them before the new financial year. Now they'll pay someone to move them. Due to the design many of them had blown apart, and are either flapping in the wind or round the bottom of lamposts.

A NIMBY.

Anonymous said...

These yellow signs are just lazy policing. Somewhere someone in a committee is feeling comfortable that they have "done something" about crime and can put another tick in a spreadsheet.
When I see the words "action group" and "tasking group" I tend to think - Uh ho I smell politispeak rather than getting some Size 12 boots on the Beat.

Anonymous said...

There was way too much fuss made over this. There was a problem, street crime and the police tried to address it in an innovative way, alerting potential victims to be more vigilant. End of. I don't particularly like estate agents boards all over the place, but up they go without notification. I just live with it. People who are intimidated by signs like this probably shouldn't live in Brockley or even London for that matter.

Anonymous said...

Or, to put it another way, there wasn't an unusual crime and the police overreacted with some stupid signs that no one wanted and let's hope they go soon. End of story. People who don't know that there is a risk of crime without needing big signs to tell them about it on every corner probably shouldn't live in brockley or even london.

Anonymous said...

"People who don't know that there is a risk of crime without needing big signs to tell them about it on every corner probably shouldn't live in brockley or even london."

You claim the police overreacted I say they tried a different and unusual approach.

The signs weren't unduly large, so I don't know what you mean about "big signs". The signs were to alert people, who may have gotten complacent about crime. in the 'pretty tree lined streets of Brockley' TM.

People probably don't need notices on cigarette boxes regarding the risk cancer but they are there because they are deemed beneficial by people who have probably weighed up the pro's and con's with alot more than me and even you!

Anonymous said...

Or, to put it another way, they were put there by people who don't live on those tree lined streets, and therefore couldn't give a toss what they looked like.

You see how arguments start?

And you shattered all credibility you might otherwise have had by saying they're not that big.

Anonymous said...

What's larger one of those signs or an estate agent's board? "Looks", the appearance of a street, are important but people's personal safety comes above that, in my book at least.

Cllr Dean Walton said...

@lb Yes it is clear that officers appear to have trotted out a fairly standard response. Which is why I followed this up with a formal question to the Cabinet Member for Community Safety with responsibility for this area. I should get the response tomorrow and will let you know.

Can the Champion for Community Safety explain who flyposted many streets in Brockley with signs alerting local residents to the dangers of being mugged or pick-pocketed in the area? What consultation with the local community took place before the flyposting for instance with the Safer Neighbourhood Team, local Councillors, local community groups or amenity societies, businesses or residents? When will the signs be cleared away? How much has this cost? What has been the impact on the levels of such street crime in the local area directly attributable to these signs?

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

I think its abit unfair to expect answers to some of those questions. How are you expected to measure the 'direct' reduction in crime following the signs? Surely its much more complicated than this and these would be part of a overall strategy.

Cllr Dean Walton said...

@Andy P. Andy, I think it is vitally important to have policy that on the whole is evidence-based. The answer that I have received is this:

"The yellow signs were agreed by the Safer Lewisham Partnership, Joint Action Group (JAG) which is the joint operational tasking group for the borough. These were put up in line with council practice.
The decision to erect these street signs were as a result of the detailed crime data analysis which showed there was a need to raise crime prevention awareness locally at that time, linked to proactive joint work aiming to reduce overall levels of crime across the borough and in hotspots.

The street signs, paid for by the police some time ago, were erected for a limited period of time and have already been removed as planned.

It is difficult to measure the impact on the levels of street crime in the local area which are directly attributable to these signs as patterns of crime can change often depending on a number of factors.
I am aware that high visibility advice boards can alarm some people, but our borough’s proactive approach to tackling issues of concern has reduced robberies in the borough by 40%. This has meant that robberies in the borough have fallen from 2394 in 2006/7 to 1425 in 2007/8."

Further just done a bit of analysis myself on the Met's crime stats (look on www.met.police.uk - available at Ward level). For Brockley the figures for Robbery (per thousand) in February 07 and 08 respectively was 0.95(10) and 0.58(6); for March 07 they were 1.44(14) and 0.44(5). This is hardly conclusive proof of the effectiveness or need for the signs...the level of this crime had significantly fallen by the point at which the signs were put up.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

"It is difficult to measure the impact on the levels of street crime in the local area which are directly attributable to these signs as patterns of crime can change often depending on a number of factors. "

That basically goes hand in hand with what I said - its impossible to measure this and hence an unfair question.

You are, of course, elected so you need to respond to at least some of your electorate (who themselves maybe expecting too much) so good on you for at least being responsive.

and its APP&P thank you! (I jest).

on the whole, the signs were a good thing.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

...and just a tip, if you are going to do some social research and quote statistics you need to bare in mind that there will be 'lag' so you would not expect to see the direct benefit immediately.

The benefit can also be spread out over a number of months, I would expect even a 12 month period.

The numbers you have quoted are pretty meaningless without some heavy caveating or better comparision.

Tressillian James said...

thanks Dean for bothering to publish the statistics - which a lot of us were after. I know what I think after reading them, and think that rather than a
'hotspot', we were part of raising 'awareness across the borough'.

Brockley Nick said...

@Andy, please don't be so patronising. Everyone's aware there's a lag, but good policy is based on trial data.

Before littering our entire city with these signs, they might have carried out a pilot scheme somewhere, to test their effectiveness on reducing crime (raising awareness of crime is not an end in itself, indeed it's a negative unless awareness of crime actually leads to better protection from crime). The fact that the response to Dean's questions didn't mention any successful trials means that they went ahead and did this without any evidence that it would do any good.

It's clear from the response we've been given, the police basically had a load of signs left over and someone from Brockley stuck their hand up when they asked who wanted them. I bet that person doesn't live on the streets where they appeared.

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