A year ago, English cities were gripped by a series of riots, the cause, origins and response to which still attract fierce debate. The police had an unprecedentedly difficult task in responding to the scale of the events and many citizens took to guarding their properties, neighbourhoods, and livelihoods by banding together and patrolling, occasionally confronting the rioters themselves. Obviously this ‘vigilantism’ had its downsides but the community response served as a reminder that citizens have an important part to play in maintaining public order.
In a 2010 pamphlet for the RSA, Ben Rogers argued that we could apply a ‘first aid’ approach to community safety. Just as medical first aid training enables volunteers to help if they come across accidents and injuries, a ‘first aid’ approach to community safety could teach citizens skills to draw on if they encounter conflict and anti-social behaviour. In this follow up report, Ben Rogers reviews the state of practice and policy. He identifies organisations that are already providing ‘first aid’ community safety training, looks at the benefits and challenges of different delivery models, and considers how practice might be expanded.
At a time of reform and squeezed budgets, the report throws light on the live debate around policing and community safety policy by outlining the potential of bottom-up approaches. Instead of relying ever more heavily on formal measures of control, it asks us to consider doing more to empower citizens and communities themselves.
This project was supported jointly by the RSA and Nesta.
To read the report, please click here.