Ray Dawe: We live in one of the safest districts in the country

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I suspect that many of us are guilty of relying too heavily on statistics to form an argument from time to time, although it can be difficult when they are all around us on a daily basis.

It is often hard to establish not only what they mean at times, but indeed their overall significance and the bearing they should have on what we do, particularly as a local authority here to serve so many people. Regularly both Horsham District Council and West Sussex County Council survey our residents to find out what people’s service priorities are and judge how well our services may be delivered.

With this in mind it is interesting to consider that despite most people feeling safe for most of the time, a key feature of the recent residents’ survey is that feeling safe is a priority. In other words many of us like things the way they are and don’t want them to change. Feeling safe is most definitely a priority which local people feel passionately about, even if at times it is hard to quantify what we mean, particularly when feeling safe can cover such a variety of situations and mean different things to different people. So with such a broad topic just how much significance should we as a council give this key priority and what does that look like in reality? When reflecting on this issue it struck me that the council, along with a number of other key agencies, are already working hard on a daily basis to achieve this very outcome, keeping Horsham (statistically!) the safest district in West Sussex. Perhaps what we are not so good at however, is explaining to our communities the mechanics behind it and how this translates into daily living.

Community Safety is about delivering local solutions to local problems that have been identified by local people and this is work that never ends. The District Council and County Councils, along with the Police, Fire Service, Probation, Health Service and voluntary groups develop and deliver projects locally under the umbrella known as the Community Safety Partnership (CSP).

Each CSP undertakes an Annual Strategic Assessment that identifies crime and disorder priorities through the use of partnership data. Consultation (including surveys) with communities is a key part of this process so that local views can be included as part of the review of your local area.

Once all the priorities have been identified, the CSP then publishes them in the Partnership Plan available online via the partnerships website: www.horshamcsp.org. It is this plan which effectively tells the story about what is happening locally and indeed it makes for interesting reading. The district’s current priorities include targets to reduce: anti-social behaviour, violent crime, the impact of drugs and alcohol, improving road safety and promoting engagement and reassurance. The CSP is a genuine example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts, as without agencies working towards collective goals we would be nothing like as effective.

Despite all the agencies that make up the CSP facing unprecedented financial challenges, the CSP has achieved a great deal since its inception in 1999 and just a few of the many examples include the setting up of local action teams, setting up good neighbour schemes to stop rogue traders, running a crime prevention rural roadshow, raising awareness of cyber crime, establishing a dedicated anti-social behaviour team, a road safety action team and the neighbourhood warden programme.

All this week, representatives from the CSP have been in the Swan Walk Shopping Centre in Horsham to explain more about the work of the partnership and how it can benefit residents and visitors alike. I hope that many readers have had the opportunity to stop by and have a look at the exhibition. I am sure that the work of the CSP contributes greatly to Horsham district being rated as one of the best districts to live in the UK and crucially, one of the safest. I very much suspect that this statistic translates into a reality for most of us even if we don’t always recognise it as adding real value to our quality of life.