‘We’re not Batman’ – Roles and expectations of local government community safety officers in New South Wales
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- Clancey, G., Lee, M. & Crofts, T. Crime Prev Community Saf (2012) 14: 235. doi:10.1057/cpcs.2012.10
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Many local authorities (or councils) now routinely assume some responsibility for crime prevention. Much of this work is managed by Community Safety Officers (or related positions). To date, there has been limited analysis of, or commentary on, these roles, certainly in New South Wales (NSW) (Australia) where Community Safety Officers (CSOs) have been deployed by some councils since the late 1980s. In an attempt to address this knowledge gap, this project involved conducting focus group research with 13 NSW local government CSOs and reviewing CSO job or position descriptions. The data collected indicate that local government CSOs undertake a wide variety of tasks and feel considerable pressure to be ‘everything to everybody’. Specifically, some of the key CSO tasks and responsibilities identified include preventing crime in the built environment, devising and coordinating social crime prevention programmes, developing crime prevention (and associated) plans, and hosting and participating in inter-agency committees. There were also significant differences in the work and working arrangements of CSOs across council boundaries. These structural local arrangements can significantly influence the nature of the work conducted and expectations of the roles. This research indicates that increased clarity about their roles and relationships with State (and Federal) government organisations, increased resourcing and greater access to professional development opportunities will go some way to enhancing the effectiveness of these roles. The recent establishment of the NSW Local Government Community Safety and Crime Prevention Network holds promise in supporting the work of CSOs, advocating for improvements and stimulating greater research into their work.