Refuge reported a 120% increase in calls to their helpline and the Metropolitan Police made 4,000 arrests for domestic abuse within the first six weeks.
As more crimes take place behind closed doors, the need for collaboration between agencies has never been so vital to ensure safer communities and reduce the chance of victims falling through the net.
Partnership working was first introduced by the Crime and Disorder Act (1998) 22 years ago, but the Covid-19 outbreak has demonstrated that it is time for a rethink.
Currently holding physical meetings where all partners can meet is difficult but without collaboration, the risk is that the vulnerable are kept in harm’s way for longer.
The partnership approach is firmly embedded in the way crime and disorder is tackled. It is built on the premise that no single agency can deliver the multi-faceted solutions needed to keep people and communities safe. Its ethos is founded on the co-operation and collaboration between all agencies.
In theory it’s great, in practice less so.
Crime and time have moved on in the last two decades and what’s needed now is even closer collaboration. The police and partner agencies would have greater scope and opportunity for more targeted intervention, if information was shared about victims, offenders, and locations in real time.
The whole picture
The drugs trade is an example of where poor information sharing plays into the hands of criminals. Vulnerable members of the public are lured into criminal activity with the promise of gifts and money, only to find themselves caught in a circle of debt, where sometimes the only escape route is prison.
Often the individuals involved in these crimes have several complex needs, which cannot be addressed in isolation or by one agency. To be able to provide effective interventions, it is vital that those involved have access to the whole story.
An HMICFRS report in 2016, recognised the importance of having a ‘wider perspective and understanding of the context, situations and relationships in which the exploitation [of children] is likely to manifest.’
But this is difficult to realise if the essential information is stored in silos.
Information without barriers
Lynne Owens, the director general of the National Crime Agency highlighted that organised crime kills more people every year ‘than terrorism, war and natural disasters combined.’
When crime crosses force and organisational boundaries and with offenders and victims coming into contact with multiple agencies, it’s impossible for policing to tackle the threat alone.
The assessment of risk must focus on co-ordinated, real-time information and this is only achievable when intelligence is shared without barriers.
Bringing police and partners together to sit round a table to share intelligence might have worked in the past, but in a world dealing with a pandemic, this is less effective. The Covid-19 crisis requires a new way of working for multi-agency partnerships.
So, what’s the answer?
One way to enhance multi-agency collaboration would be to introduce a virtual safeguarding hub. Agencies involved in a particular case would be invited on to the platform by a case manager. Events, people, and locations would be automatically linked, prompting alerts, and allowing for a more co-ordinated and accurate assessment of vulnerability.
A simple interface between different organisation solutions could ensure that all workflows are connected and integrated. This would also reduce the need for double entry of basic information such as name, address, and status updates into both systems.
When all the necessary information is accessible to multi agencies it limits the opportunity for victims of crime such as domestic violence or sexual exploitation being ‘hidden’ from assessment and intervention.
The ideal situation is for police, social services, the NHS, schools, GPs, and charities to be able to share critical information between them.
For example, let’s think about a scenario where a young person’s parents report an attack on their child to the police as a one-off incident. The young person has also visited accident and emergency on several occasions and their school has logged concerns over school attendance.
Now, if the police have only received one report of violence from the victim’s parents, this could seem like an isolated incident. However, by combining all the intelligence across the multiple organisations ensures the police and the public services are in a much better position to assess the risk to the victim and potential victims. This type of knowledge not only saves time, but it could also be the difference between protecting victims from situations escalating to serious harm.
The challenges that exist in our post Covid-19 world are not going to ease anytime soon so if we are going to reduce threat, risk and harm to the public then greater collaboration has to be a priority.
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