Waking Watch Reduces Antisocial Behaviour and Petty Crime by Fifty Percent at Preston Residential Site
Next week around four million UK homeowners will find out how and when Building and Fire Safety Standards legislation will be overhauled following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower in 2017.
The Draft Building Safety Bill, one of two on the issue, currently and controversially leaves leaseholders living in affected buildings liable for the cost of fixing historical safety defects, but will now return to Parliament to be debated at the end of January.
But for providers of affordable housing, the cost of employing a Waking Watch service themselves (rather than it being paid for by residents) has been mitigated by the benefits it has brought to the community it serves. A Waking Watch service is required as a temporary measure when there is presence of dangerous cladding, and therefore fire safety issues mean the evacuation policy on a block changes from Stay Put to Simultaneous Evacuation. This change requires fire marshals to patrol blocks 24 hours a day looking for signs of fire. But because of the cost of the service in some places, it began to get a bad name – until other benefits suddenly became clear.
Onward is a leading provider of affordable homes for rent and sale in the North West from Southport to Stockport. They own and manage over 35,000 homes right across the region, also committing to building more new homes throughout the North West for those in housing need.
In Preston, Lancashire they own three high rise blocks: Lincoln House, Carlisle House and Richmond House. Nationally renowned security agency Crown Security Solutions was contracted by the housing association to run a Waking Watch, the primary concern of which was the monitoring of the alarm system and assisting with any evacuation (should it be required).
Since the start of Waking Watch six months ago, Onward has found that due to the presence of Crown Security Solutions, vagrancy issues have almost entirely disappeared, anti-social behaviour issues have dropped by 50% and there has been a significant drop in petty crime.
Davey Elder is the North West Area Manager and believes that his security guards have really helped to strengthen the local community against crime. “On a day-to-day basis we are dealing with residents and so we need to be smart, friendly, approachable and most importantly, customer service-focused. The three residential blocks that we help to protect are all 10 storeys high and have a similar cladding to Grenfell Tower. As per the advice of the fire brigade, they’d moved from a stay-put policy to a simultaneous evacuation one and brought in Crown Security Solutions to provide a Waking Watch.”
Crown Security Solutions only use SIA-trained operatives, door supervisors, security guards and close protection. They are additionally trained in fire awareness and PPE, especially during COVID. They will also have in-house training and learn to use the TrackTik system.
Davey added, “I have two officers in each block, 24/7. There’s one of them on a patrol at all times, starting at the top of each building, and then they swap. The patrol is done through a phone app. The officer scans a barcode on every floor and then answers the questions: ‘Is the call point operational? Have the smoke heads been tampered with? Are the fire doors in good working order; are they obstructed?’ So there’s a series of six or seven questions on each floor. It gives absolute certainty that everything has been done as it should be done. Then they sign at the end of that to say that to the best of their knowledge they’ve carried out the patrol in line with Crown Security policies. The client can then see that through their own app, as well as an incident report if they come across problems, such as a door that wasn’t closing properly. This report instantly gets sent to me and the client as well as to the maintenance team every time the officer passes that particular issue.”
Onward Homes has used Crown Security for Waking Watch provision for the last six months, and has just extended this by a further six. Mike O’Flaherty is the Senior Compliance Manager. He said, “I have found Crown Security Solutions’ systems to be very robust, providing me with daily reports of all site inspections carried out, and have received many emails from Onward staff expressing their gratitude when the Crown team have gone above and beyond. I have always found Crown to be readily available on the phone and very responsive to queries. I would not hesitate to use them again for any of our future needs.”
Despite being brought in to initially fulfil the Waking Watch contract, the team from Crown Security Solutions have also taken on the responsibility of dealing with the residents, being a point of contact out of hours for anti-social behaviour. This means that instead of the residents phoning the police themselves, they now tend to come to the security office and ask them to deal with any issues.
Davey Elder said, “The residents have been very reassured by the presence of our security officers. There are some times where we have been able to deal with it ourselves and resolve the problem, other times they may have needed to bring in the police where it has led to an arrest. Sadly they have also been involved in checking on vulnerable residents and finding somebody who was deceased. We work to something called a Peps List (a personal evacuations plan), knowing where there may be elderly, sick or vulnerable people that need assistance in evacuating the building.”
The Waking Watch services are of added benefit to anyone that houses any potentially unscrupulous tenants. It can massively reduce a lot of the associated problems: anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping, vagrancy, groups of youths hanging around together in a threatening manner, and petty crime. The statistics speak for themselves.