Commissioner presents offender management team with prestigious national award
Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd presented a prestigious Public Services Award to police and probation staff at Police Headquarters on Monday 17 December.
The Commissioner presented the award to the Hertfordshire Horizons team, made up of police and probation officers whose pilot of GPS tracking of offenders won the Guardian newspaper’s Digital Innovations Award 2012. The GPS trial, which involves offenders wearing a GPS tracking device that can report on the whereabouts of the person wearing the device at any time, is just one of the innovations of the Hertfordshire Horizons programme.
Horizons focuses on the county’s top 200 most prolific offenders. The team works intensively with these offenders to deter them from further offending – mostly acquisitive crime – and thereby preventing more people becoming victims of crime.  Since GPS tracking was launched in April 2011 the offence rate of the 200 most prolific offenders dropped by 41% in the first year and 70 of them stayed crime-free altogether.
David Lloyd said: “I want to see innovation across the criminal justice system to put victims of crime at the centre of everything we do. I am proud to be associated with such an innovative and effective team that is making real strides in helping offenders to give up a life of crime and reducing the number of victims.  One of my key aims is the rehabilitation of criminals to stop them from re-offending once they are released from prison.”
He added: “It is a privilege to present Hertfordshire Horizons team with this national award. This represents their achievements to date and their continued commitment on which we will build.”
Tessa Webb, Hertfordshire Probation Trust’s Chief Executive, said: “Although the Guardian presented me with the award in November, it seems only fitting that the police and probation staff who worked so hard on the project, should have their work recognised locally.”
The Commissioner added: “Working with a wide range of partners, including probation, to cut crime and keep the county safe is vitally important. Collective local leadership on crime, justice and community safety will be the key to cutting crime and tackling its causes.”
Extract from the Guardian Public Services Award website:
When Mark Turner was released from prison at the start of this year after serving 21 months for a string of 200 thefts, he soon had a knock on the door from the police. A crime had been committed in his area and, as a prolific offender with convictions stretching back to 1995, Turner was an obvious suspect. But thanks to the GPS tracker he was wearing around his ankle, he was able to prove that he was sticking to his vow to go straight.
"Those police officers didn't realise I had a tracker on – but once they did, they left on the spot, rather than dragging me into the police station," he says. "Now the police in my area know I'm not at it any more. They can see I'm making a real effort to change my life – in a sense, it's like putting people's worries to rest."
Turner is one of 50 ex-offenders who have agreed to wear a GPS tracker as part of the successful Hertfordshire Horizons programme, set up by Hertfordshire Probation Trust and the police. Unlike the usual tags for ex-offenders, which simply flag up whether someone has broken a curfew, the GPS device, worn by around 20-25 individuals in Hertfordshire at any one time, can show exactly where the wearer is at any time of the day or night.
According to probation trust chief executive Tessa Webb, that is a welcome development for police and ex-offenders alike. She says: "We could see there would be benefits for the policing side, but what we perhaps hadn't anticipated was how much the people wearing them would like it. For them, there's the relief of not being pulled in every five minutes when they are trying to make a go of turning away from crime."
Horizons also involves intensive support for participants, including help tackling their addictions and advice on housing and job training. Since it was launched in April last year for the county's 200 most prolific offenders, their offence rate has dropped by 41% in the first year and 70 of them have stayed crime-free altogether.
Those figures are testament to the success of an intensive approach, says Webb: "About 10% of offenders commit 70% of crimes, so if we can turn their lives around we are going to have the biggest impact on crime," she says. "We need to work with the ones that cause the most harm to the community in a really joined-up way."
Detective Chief Inspector Julie Wheatley, Hertfordshire Constabulary's lead on offender management, says: "I'm all for catch-and-convict but to get long-term sustainable crime reduction we need to do more than lock people up."
The Guardian's Public Services Awards have always set out to showcase innovation and best practice across Whitehall, local government, the NHS and beyond. At a time when public services leaders are faced with new demands to show innovative approaches to challenges, championing the many success stories has never been more important.