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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 10/07/2007
Graffiti and Other Environmental Crime



APPENDIX O
Waverley Borough Council

EXECUTIVE - 10TH JULY 2007

Title:
GRAFFITI AND OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME
[Wards Affected: All]
Summary and purpose:

This report updates Members about the progress made through the vehicle of the Environment Task Group, sponsored by the Safer Waverley Partnership, in reducing incidents of graffiti and environmental crime in Waverley.

Environmental implications:

There are significant environmental implications associated with the benefits of this work as ‘signal crime’ is a proven catalyst for further more serious criminal activities. Environmental crime detracts from the quality of life of all inhabitants and visitors to the borough as well as creating a downward spiral for other criminal activities.

Social / community implications:

Tackling environmental crime, including graffiti, litter, chewing gum and abandoned vehicles can be amongst the most difficult areas facing a district council to address. Success in working on this front has enormous benefits in terms of both reassurance and in reducing the actual levels of serious crime and enhancing the quality of life.

E-Government implications:

This work has involved considerable electronic interfaces between the various partners who are involved, including the use of hand-held and remote technologies. Further developments in this field are likely to benefit from the continued application of remote working capabilities.

Resource and legal implications:

The work undertaken so far as a partner to these projects by Waverley has been contained within approved budgets or has been enabled by external funding opportunities. Future work may require ongoing partnership commitments or external funding opportunities.

Background

1. In 2003, and with the support of the Safer Waverley Partnership (Waverley’s statutorily constituted Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP)), an Environment Task Group was formed comprising representatives from Waverley including Environmental Services, Environmental Health, Housing and Revenues and Benefits; Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, Pavilion Housing Association, Surrey Police and Trading Standards. This group sought to address the tangible evidence of local and low level crime (technically referred to as ‘signal crime’) by working through a range of agencies dealing with the visible manifestations of low grade anti-social behaviour such as graffiti, abandoned vehicles, litter, fly tipping and general environmental quality. The initial areas were Ockford Ridge and Aarons Hill In Godalming and the work was then extended to include The Chantries and Sandy Hill in Farnham. A range of improvements were effected which are described in more detail below.

Graffiti

2. In the 2006-2007 financial year, 10,000 was made available through the CDRP to tackle the growing incidents of graffiti in Waverley. Specialist companies were employed each month to extinguish known venues of graffiti and a database was set-up with Surrey Police to provide a photographic capture of the graffiti to enable them to identify the perpetrators through their unique characteristics (known as Tags). This has proved enormously successful and, to consolidate on this success, the Council has approved a base level increase in our revenue budgets to enable the ongoing activity in this area to be commissioned through our main contractor Veolia Environmental Services. In a recent survey of issues related to fear of crime which is reproduced at Annexe 1 to this report, it can be seen that most of the residents of Waverley who participated in the survey did not regard graffiti as being a significant issue any more in this borough and this compares favourably with all other boroughs in Surrey.

Nuisance Vehicles

3. Waverley has had effective arrangements in place for some years now to deal with abandoned vehicles on the highway and our average time for investigating notifications of abandoned vehicles is 1 working day, and 80% of those confirmed as abandoned are removed within 1 further working day. This is a Government Best Value Indicator in the suite of environmental indicators and it is therefore important to us that we are fully effective in this area. Abandoned vehicles are those vehicles where there is no known keeper or registered owner and where the vehicle is of no or low value. Not every nuisance vehicle fits into this category and in order to be able to cope with other vehicles, Waverley, together with its partners has invested in a vehicle pound in Farnham to which vehicles can be removed pending their appropriate reunification with their owner. This pound will come on stream this year. The pound will also be useful in respect of the stop and search exercises that are described below.

Fly Tipping

4. One of the potential downside consequences of introducing an alternate weekly system of refuse collection is the increase in incidence of fly tipping. Incidentally, this potential worry is not borne out by the National statistics derived from Defra’s “Fly Capture Database” which indicates no increase in fly tipping as a consequence of different waste collection management solutions. In order to alleviate this potential problem at source we planned for and carried out a number of inter-agency vehicle stop and search exercises with the disclosed intention of attempting to intercept illegally transported commercial waste in transit.

5. The other agencies that collaborated with this exercise included, as well as Waverley’s Environmental Health and Revenue and Benefits Sections, Surrey Police, Surrey Fire and Rescue, Trading Standards, VOSA, Customs and Excise. Partner agencies collaborated in order take advantage of the opportunity to investigate vehicles of interest to them. In the event the exercises demonstrated that there was a relatively low level of illegal waste being transported but the exercises proved so fruitful in relation to other lines of enquiry and actions of interest to Waverley’s Environment Task Group partners that we have resolved to replicate these on a regular basis across the borough.

Litter

6. In the time period the Environment Task Group has been engaged it has sought to address those identified areas of the borough where litter causes a visual and environmental intrusion and to do those things that are necessary to effect on-site improvements. These have included, by way of example, the appointment of dedicated cleaners to work on the roads and open spaces associated with the Chantries and Sandy Hill Estates in Farnham, to keep the areas neat and tidy and also by way of further example, to enhance the environmental cleaning specification in areas of noted problems. This has been particularly effective in targeting resources to areas of difficulty and avoiding potential spirals of decline where visually unacceptable areas are also unacceptably treated by residents and visitors.

Project Locust

7. All of the areas so far dealt with through the Task Group have been self-selecting in terms of the challenges they present. Project Locust is a new beginning borne of the Guildford and Godalming joint meetings of their various Local Strategic Partnerships and represents a common project able to be worked on in both districts. The project seems to identify areas in need of attention through local Members, local groups and other interested parties and to sequentially identify a programme of clean-ups and enhancements within the existing resource base of the two districts together with their partner agencies. Some small degree of pooled funding has been agreed for the purposes of communications and information.

Conclusion

8. This range of initiatives have effected considerable environmental improvements in some of the more challenged areas of our Borough, together with enhancing the degree of collaboration between Waverley and its various functions and our partner authorities and organisations. This way of working has much to commend it in terms of the general inflection of government and its clear desire to see agencies joint working and collaborating and not only that but the sum of the parts is much greater than the whole. Your officers therefore strongly commend not only continuing with this approach to dealing with challenging environmental issues in challenged areas but also grasping the opportunity, wherever possible, to further develop this productive way of working.

Recommendation

It is recommended that the Executive:

1. receives this update report on dealing with environmental crime and graffiti in Waverley, and 2. encourages officers to develop this line of working further in dealing with environmental crime in Waverley through its own initiatives, and joint working through the Safer Waverley Partnership and the Guildford Local Strategic Partnership.

Background Papers (DoEL)

Environment Task Group Notes of Meetings.
Minutes of the Guildford and Waverley Local Strategic Partnerships

CONTACT OFFICER:


Name: Peter Maudsley Telephone: 01483 523398
E-mail: pmaudsley@waverley.gov.uk

Comms/exec/2007-08/043