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Steve Trice, Town Clerk to Haywards Heath TC, explains his council’s new Community Warden Scheme

Haywards Heath is by no means the crime capital of the South East, but Haywards Heath Town Council has always had a close working relationship with Neighbourhood Policing Team working on issues within the town. Unfortunately, due to the necessity of Sussex Police to reduce local policing numbers, the town council felt there was a gap in tackling business crime, low level anti-social behaviour and the absence of a friendly face known to the community.

To meet this need, the town council has developed, working with Sussex Partners Against Crime partnership which includes Sussex Police, Souther Co-operative and private security company SWL Security, an innovative way of dealing with community safety by introducing a Community Warden. The Warden’s remit is to install community confidence, increase resilience and help reduce and report crime. The Warden is based in the town centre but has the ability to focus on identified issues around the town by attending incidents by foot patrol, vehicle or on their electronic bike.

The Warden has a uniform, stab proof jacket and carries handcuffs, as SWL Security has obtained additional powers through the Sussex Police Community Safety Accreditation Scheme, meaning they can effectively manage street issues and control anti-social behaviour. SWL provides the Warden to the town council through a Service Level Agreement. The Warden is fully police vetted, reports to the police and receives intelligence from the police by attending weekly Neighbourhood Policing meetings. The Warden’s work pattern is controlled by the town council by routine patrol on intelligence gathered and town events.

To support the Warden there is an electronic reporting platform Facewatch, where intelligence and crime is reported. If the incident can be crime referenced, the Warden can create a report and send it to the police. The platform also groups incidents by location, type and timing so intelligence can be gathered to specifically target crime. The Warden can then with the support of the local police who have access to Facewatch, strategically target crime hot spots. For example, the level of drug contraband found is logged, so the Warden can ascertain where drug use is occurring. Practically, this information and regular patrols resulted in a major drug seizure by Sussex Police. There has also been a reduction in crime since the Warden has been deployed to specific sites including Haywards Heath Cricket Pavilion and town council owned Allotment Sites. On a community level, the Warden has had interaction with the homeless community, street drinkers and the general public.

Financial assistance for the Warden has been provided by the Sussex Police Crime Commissioner who granted during years one and two, Southern Co-operative contribute thirty percent of the costs under its cooperate commitment to public safety, with the remainder of the cost being paid by the town council. The Police and Crime Commissioner funding has been reduced year on year, so to continue with this ground-breaking Community Safety Project, the town council is increasing its financial contribution over a three-year period to ensure it can make this initiative sustainable. To add to the funding, the Warden is now offering security packages to businesses with a view to them becoming a partner in the project alongside Southern Co-operative who have been very flexible in letting the Warden work with other businesses in the town.

This is a true example of the public and private sectors working together collaboratively in order to enhance prosperity and reduce crime in the local area. The town council values the confidence and peace of mind received, that has now become apparent in the area thanks to the Warden and Sussex Police and looks forward to the project continuing.