» Two in one ¦ What You Can Get Away With

Two committee meetings in one night last night, as Strategic Overview and Scrutiny Panel was followed by the first meeting of Colchester’s Crime and Disorder Committee. This is a new committee we’ve been required to create by the Government to scutinise the work of our local Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership. Rather than set up an entirely new committee to do this, we decided to make it part of the SOS Panel’s work – technically, it’s a separate committe, but it has the same membership as the SOS Panel, and meets after that meeting is finished.

So, we got to interview senior police officers and talk about crime statistics. I must admit that thanks to my TV-watching habits of recent weeks it was hard not see the similarities with The Wire and imagine myself in a Comstat meeting. Of course, it turns out that I wasn’t the only politician having delusions about parallels between Britain and David Simon’s vision of Baltimore, but I chose not to make a big speech about mine.

First up, though, was the business for the SOS Panel, of which the main business was meant to be scrutinising our partnership with Colchester 2020, but that had to be deferred to the September meeting because Paul Zollinger-Read, the chairman of 2020 was unavailable. So, without the main item, we discussed some of the Council’s Life Opportunities (I know, I think it’s a silly name too) targets and a report on the progress of our investigation into the new proposed new nuclear site at Bradwell. It’s now a question of trying to get some research done into the effects of the outflow of the chlorinated cooling water from the plant, and what’s happened to the estuary since the old plant was closed. More on that at another time, no doubt.

After that, it was time for the Crime and Disorder Committee, and it was an interesting first meeting. The discussion was mainly on the targets that the CDRP has – more details in the report here (pdf file). I had a few questions about the nature of the report – mainly that some of the targets were somewhat vague or unclear as presented – but the general figures are looking good, with the usual caveat about crime targets depending on crime being reported. As with the NAP meeting yesterday afternoon, one of the problems the police are facing is crime not being reported and it’s hard to investigate something if you don’t know it’s happening.

However, we do seem to have some good people in charge of our local division, and it was interesting to discuss some of the projects that are ongoing, notably in terms of drugs. The CDRP have taken a much more health-related approach to drug work – of the sort that’s been shown to work much better than a criminal one all round the world – not just going round and banging up people for using. It’s an issue I want to look into more, but aside from my usual worries about target culture in public services (another lesson to be learnt from The Wire) it seems we’re heading in a promising direction.

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