The Community Safety team was formed to offer a more proactive approach to supporting residents needs. Eleanor, Community Safety Manger, took time out of her busy schedule to share with us more about the team, what’s involved and ways they look to support our residents.
Having already worked in housing for 15 years, when the opportunity arose five years ago for an anti-social behaviour specialist, Eleanor jumped at the chance. During this time, she successfully established the role, building relationships and working alongside other agencies within the community to support our residents. The role has since evolved and she is now the Community Safety Manager, and has the support of two new Community Safety Officers who are working hard to keep our communities safe.
So, who are the Community Safety Team and how do they tackle anti-social behaviour?
Eleanor, who is clearly passionate about her role, was only too happy to share what makes it so special, its impact on the community and how it’s evolving; “First and foremost, we’re about sustaining people’s tenancies and keeping people safe in their homes. We wanted a team that could support the community, but was separate to the Housing Manager’s job. If you can focus on the community safety element, which can deal with those cases that require more time, we can get to the root of why things are happening and link in with the people that can provide the support needed.”
“We deal with the high-level cases where you’ve got criminal activity and clear breaches of tenancy, and look at how things can be resolved. We also deal with safeguarding and domestic abuse.”
“We’re quite hands on when we need to be. Sometimes people just need a push or some initial support, so we get those steps going for them. We complete direct referrals so that people can access support, as well as signposting them to other agencies.”
“A really important part of our role is to manage expectations. So, when dealing with a complainant and the person being complained about it’s about being open and honest letting them know what we can and can’t do, and the options that are available to them. Sometimes complainants expect people to be evicted very quickly or to be moved away, but this is not always realistic or the best solution.”
“Neighbourhood disputes don’t usually come about because of two unpleasant people living next door to each other. There are often so many other things that are going on, for both sides. We are able to investigate complaints and hopefully provide people with honest answers to their questions about what might happen and what they can do to help themselves. A very common and successful way to resolve issues between neighbours can be through mediation. This is something we offer to people at a very early stage. It’s a free, independent service which can be invaluable.”
“Noise is the most common complaint that we receive from residents, it takes up about 40% of all of our anti-social behaviour reports. People’s expectation is that when they complain, and their neighbour is spoken to, that the noise will stop. Unfortunately, that’s not always realistic. It can depend on what the noise is that is causing a nuisance, as well as how receptive people are to making changes.”
She adds: “We often work with the local authority in dealing with noise nuisance complaints. When the noise level doesn’t meet the threshold to be considered as statutory noise nuisance, it can be very difficult to take the matter any further. This can be really frustrating for us and the resident involved. Again, mediation plays a key part in noise complaints, because very often it’s about people living next door to each other respectfully.”
What can you do if you find yourself in a dispute?
Eleanor goes on to talk about the simple things you can do if you find yourself in a dispute with a neighbour; “It’s important to be human with people and think about how you would want someone to approach you. If you knock on someone’s door in anger and are confrontational then they are going to be confrontational back, or they’re going to be frightened. This will usually make things worse, so do think about how you approach someone first.”
She continues: “If you have experienced a sleepless night because of someone’s behaviour, you are not likely to be in the best frame of mind to speak with them. Maybe step back and wait until you feel calmer before raising the problem with them.”
“If you are fearful or feel your neighbour is unapproachable, contact us and ask our advice or if they are doing things that they shouldn’t be and it’s a criminal matter, you need to contact the police.”
“If you’re concerned about something then write it down, time and date, what’s gone on, how it’s made you feel, the impact it’s had on you. Ultimately, diary sheets can be used to provide evidence at court, but in the first instance, we need details so that when we go and speak to your neighbour we can discuss with them exactly what the issues are and we can try and work out a solution or come to a compromise. You can also install CCTV, but you do need to get our permission to do that.”
Eleanor explains how the reduction in police resources has partially led to the need for the additional support from the Community Safety Team. “With fewer police we’ve seen a growth in voluntary sector and charities etc.. When I first started you had a police officer on every patch that you would work with. They knew their residents and the issues that might arise, and that was great. Now we don’t have that. Police are still here to help, and my experience is that they can offer a fantastic service – it is simply more challenging for them in the current climate.”
“Please don’t live in fear if you’ve got a concern about something. We’re here to help you and can offer advice. What we’ve found is that if people keep things to themselves for a really long period of time it can manifest in a very negative way. And they really should come to us earlier, they can do that anonymously.”
Eleanor has big visions for the team and believes this will give them the opportunity to further support our residents; “We’re moving away from being almost exclusively reactive. We’re looking at ways we can tackle vital issues such as domestic abuse. In the future we would like to do the same thing with mental health. These areas are key to tackling anti-social behaviour and safeguarding residents.”
She concludes: “We’re a team of people who are really passionate about what we’re doing and we’re very open to new ideas.”