Insp. Christina Shorrock of the Lancashire Constabulary and Prof. Stuart Kirby of the University of Central Lancashire’s School of Forensic and Applied Sciences came in to give a presentation about their work (performed along with Ms Christy Frampton of the Lancashire Constabulary, who couldn’t attend) on co-ordinating multi-agency responses to vulnerable callers, or those superusers who are responsible for a disproportionate number of emergency service calls. Herman Goldstein, in Policing a Free Society, outlines eight objectives for the police force of a modern, democratic nation.
Insp. Christina Shorrock of the Lancashire Constabulary and
Prof. Stuart Kirby
of the University of Central Lancashire’s School of Forensic
and Applied Sciences came in to give
about their work (performed along with Ms Christy Frampton of the
Lancashire Constabulary, who couldn’t attend) on co-ordinating
multi-agency responses to vulnerable callers, or those
superusers who are responsible for a disproportionate number
of emergency service calls.
Herman Goldstein, in
Policing a Free Society, outlines eight objectives for the police force of a modern,
democratic nation. These tie in to a broader debate on whether the
police should be content to be crime fighters, or more a force for
the alleviation of social harms. The objective of Goldstein’s
that Shorrock and Kirby chose to focus on was that the police should
assist those who cannot care for themselves.
Society is undergoing changes, and only 17 % of calls to the police
in the UK relate to crimes. The remaining (and rising proportion of)
calls are largely to do with public safety or welfare incidents. In
addition, 43 % of anti-social behaviour incidents involve mental
health problems. In Lancshire, the crime-call rate is 19 % and
48–49 % are related to social issues such as drugs, alcoholism
and mental health. In 2015, HM Inspectorate of Constabularies argued
that those at the
greatest risk of harm required police
protection and support.
Research has apparently suggested that the Pareto
principle—that roughly 80 % of any given effect comes from
20 % of the available causes—applies to emergency service
calls. 4 % of victims suffer 40 % of crime, and police focus
resources on a small pool of
superusers who make a
disproportionate number of emergency service calls—the story
was used as an example, with over £1M having been spent on him over
10 years to no apparent benefit.
The theory behind the trio’s work was that if they could
co-ordinate a multi-agency response to alleviate the issues of even
a small number of these
superusers, the impact on the overall
demand for police resources used would be disproportionately high.
Defining Vulnerability: From the Conceptual to the
Operational, Kirby and one of his Ph.D. students developed a framework of
vulnerability following meta-analysis of multiple studies. This
divided the sources of vulnerability into the categories of
physical/personal, social/family/assocational and
Decided to target their interventions midstream, the researchers
applied the SARA methodology to the issue, with Goldstein’s
problem-oriented policing in mind. Taking the top 100
callers each month (each of whom made an average of 17 calls to
police), contact details were passes on to local Early Action Teams
to research further. 87 % of vulnerable callers, it transpired, had
been previously highlighted, but no responses had been made or plans
put in place.
In their analysis, with an $ n $ of 866, the researchers found that the most common risk factor leaving to vulnerability was mental health issues (36.3 % of cases), with being at risk of child sexual exploitation the least (5.8 %). Other factors included alcoholism, Alzheimer’s & dementia and self harming. Applying smaller space analysis, the researchers took each behaviour and checked them with the others for rates of co-occurrence, eventually grouping them into the three areas of youth factors, elderly factors and vulnerability risk factors. As youth and elderly factors are largely static, the team focused on the remaining (and largest) group of factors.
The response was good. Early Action Teams were the Lead Professional Agency in 41 % of cases, largely due to the fact that they took on all cases that failed to meet more specialised agencies thresholds and criteria for assistance. Some of the solutions used to reduce vulnerability were ingenious—one woman suffering from dementia, for example, had a sign posted by her landline phone telling her not to call the police if she woke up confused, and to call her sister on the number provided instead.
The study was only conducted for a 6-month period, so some of the
findings had a lower confidence than the researchers would have
like. However, calls reduced by 26 %, deployments reduced 6.2 % and
mental health-related cases specifically dropped 21.5 %. In the
opinion of the researchers, many of the vulnerable callers
lived lives so chaotic that they didn’t need specialist
support (e.g., they shouldn’t have to wait until they worsen
enough to hit whatever thresholds they have to to qualify), but
rather just need someone to sort them out.
In conclusion, the results showed that
police demand and individual lifestyles can be positively
affected through well-targeted proactive interventions.