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The Evolution of Gardant's Community Safety Team: Bridging the Gap in Barnstaple

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

By Oliver Backhouse MSyI, M.ISRM

In March 2022, amidst the picturesque streets of Barnstaple, a pioneering scheme was initiated with a singular vision: to assist North Devon Council in tackling the escalating concerns of Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) and street drinking. This initiative, though starting as a pilot, was destined to embark on a transformative journey, evolving into a linchpin of community safety and support.

The early days of the scheme unveiled an unexpected challenge: a significant prevalence of ASB amongst under-18s. Addressing this delicate issue necessitated a nuanced approach, fostering a symbiotic collaboration between North Devon Council, Devon & Cornwall Police, and Gardant's Community Safety Team. As weeks turned into months, the team found themselves at the forefront of an array of challenges, notably mental health crises and medical emergencies.

Recognising the evolving needs of the community, by October 2022, the scheme was formalised for a 12- month tenure. The proactive senior management at Gardant, always attuned to the pulse of community needs, introduced an intensive training regimen for the CST. Beyond the standard training modules, Gardant developed a bespoke training programme tailored specifically for the CST contract. This customised training ensured that the team was not only equipped to handle the general challenges of their role but also the unique situations that the Barnstaple community presented.

The team underwent the First Response Emergency Care (FREC 3) training, arming them with the skills to handle grave medical emergencies. This comprehensive training was further augmented with safeguarding modules, designed to equip the CST with the knowledge and skills to work effectively around children and vulnerable adults. Such training is crucial, given the diverse range of individuals they encounter daily, ensuring that every interaction is handled with

sensitivity, understanding, and professionalism.

Equipped with comprehensive first responder kits, inclusive of AEDs and Oxygen, the CST stands ever prepared to act decisively during critical moments. Their readiness isn't just about equipment; it's a testament to the exhaustive training and preparation they undergo. Whether it's retrieving their equipment from their base in emergencies or engaging with the community on a daily basis, the CST's training ensures they act with competence, care, and commitment.

So, what catalysed the inception of such a scheme?

The NHS, a bedrock of community health in the UK, has been wrestling with its set of challenges. A dwindling number of paramedics, protracted ambulance wait times, and an overburdened infrastructure meant that immediate medical attention was becoming elusive. Simultaneously, Devon & Cornwall Police, grappling with resource constraints, found their capacities stretched thin, making the reassuring presence of the traditional beat officer a rarity. A surge in severe crimes further exacerbated their challenges.

Enter Gardant's CST, a timely intervention that seamlessly filled this void. They emerged as the pivotal link, ensuring that even as Devon & Cornwall Police and the NHS navigated more pressing challenges, the community remained well-supported and secure. The CST became the beacon of safety, ensuring Barnstaple's streets remained secure, its residents felt protected, and immediate emergencies were addressed with alacrity.

Gardant, an ACS-accredited company, has always been at the forefront of security innovation. Their commitment to excellence is evident in their attainment of the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme (CSAS) status, which empowers the CST with extended powers to enforce and maintain order. This unique blend of CSAS and council powers of enforcement has made the CST a formidable force in community safety.

On the bustling streets of Barnstaple, the CST grapples daily with challenges ranging from ASB and street drinking to violence and retail crime. Their presence has been a deterrent, but when situations escalate, they've been there to intervene, often administering life-saving first aid to those in dire need. Their swift actions and adeptness in medical emergencies have, on numerous occasions, been the thin line between life and death.

The High Street shops of Barnstaple have come to rely heavily on the CST. A close-knit relationship has been forged, with many shops equipped with town radios or direct phone lines to the CST, ensuring that assistance is just a call away. This synergy has fostered a safer and more secure shopping environment, benefiting both retailers and customers.

After the initial success of the 12-month period, the local community and stakeholders took notice. Council chairman Ian Roome was quoted in a local newspaper saying, "Barnstaple is a much nicer place to visit as crime had gone down. The shopkeepers are telling me that it really works and what an advantage it is." This sentiment was echoed by many, with reports indicating a decrease in crime by 18 per cent, translating to a reduction of 382 incidents. Furthermore, incidents of ASB saw a decline by 34 per cent, a reduction of 145 incidents.

This overwhelming success and positive feedback led to the scheme being renewed for an additional six months. The extension serves as a buffer, allowing North Devon Council and all relevant stakeholders to strategise and secure permanent financial support, aiming to make the CST a permanent fixture in Barnstaple. The potential permanence of this scheme underscores its importance and the profound impact it has on the local community, ensuring a safer and more harmonious environment for all.

A Comparative Look at Community Safety Schemes in the UK

Across the UK, the concept of community safety schemes isn't entirely new. The government, recognising the need for enhanced community safety, introduced the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme (CSAS). As documented by the GOV.UK, CSAS is a voluntary scheme where chief constables can accredit individuals already working in roles that contribute to community safety with limited but targeted powers. These roles span from neighbourhood wardens to shopping mall guards. The primary objective is to foster a partnership between public and private entities and the police, ensuring a consistent uniformed presence in communities.

However, while these schemes have their merits, Gardant's initiative in North Devon has taken community safety to an unprecedented level. Unlike other schemes, Gardant's CST doesn't just focus on maintaining order. They actively engage in addressing Anti-Social Behaviour, street drinking, violence, and retail crime. Their close-knit relationship with Highstreet shops, equipped with town radios or direct contact to the CST, ensures swift assistance when needed.

Moreover, Gardant's distinction as an ACS (Approved Contractor Scheme) company elevates their commitment to excellence. This accreditation means that all of Gardant's staff undergo rigorous vetting in line with British Standard 7858:2019. This ensures that every individual representing Gardant on the streets is of the highest calibre, having passed stringent background checks and assessments. Furthermore, all Gardant personnel are trained and licensed Door Supervisors. This isn't just any standard training; Gardant provides them with an extensive, bespoke conflict management course tailored specifically to the unique demands of the CST contract.

Such comprehensive training, combined with their ACS status, ensures that Gardant's CST is not only equipped to handle everyday challenges but is also prepared for complex situations that require nuanced understanding and adept conflict resolution. The ACS accreditation stands as a testament to Gardant's unwavering commitment to quality, professionalism, and the safety of the communities they serve. It's this dedication to excellence and continuous training that sets Gardant apart, making their community safety initiative in North Devon truly unparalleled.

The team's commitment to community safety is evident in their proactive approach to medical emergencies. On numerous occasions, they have administered life-saving first aid, showcasing their dedication and expertise. Their comprehensive training, from dealing with ASB to handling severe medical emergencies, sets them apart.

In conclusion, while community safety schemes are prevalent across the UK, Gardant's initiative in North Devon stands out as a luminous exemplar of innovation, collaboration, and unwavering commitment to community welfare. Their holistic approach, which encompasses law enforcement, community engagement, and medical assistance, underscores the potency of collective effort. With the Council, NHS, Devon & Cornwall Police, and private entities like Gardant converging, they craft a safer, more harmonious Barnstaple. As the scheme continues to evolve, it serves as a testament to the remarkable outcomes achievable when dedication meets innovation, making Gardant's Community Safety Team a beacon of hope for the community.

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