Australian Institute of Criminology

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This Technical and Background Paper summarises the results of a project funded by the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department’s (AGD). The project aimed to clarify the contribution of the community night patrol program in the Northern Territory (NT) to improving the community safety of Indigenous communities, and in this context recommend an improved framework for monitoring performance and reporting. Community night patrols or similar services operate in many other areas of Australia and internationally, thus this paper is of wide interest. The paper concludes that the core business of community night patrols is (non-crisis) crime prevention not defacto policing, that an unrecognised outcome of patrols is capturing and sharing local knowledge about community safety issues and solutions and that a focus should be on working with other services to reduce the need over time for repeat assistance by patrols to persons at risk and for risky incidents.

While patrols are small operations, where fully effective they can contribute in unique ways to achieving improved community safety. Their work can contribute to achieving progress in community safety outcomes under the Overcoming Disadvantage Strategic Framework and the related National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework, Frameworks supported by all governments in Australia. The recently released report on the evaluation of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER Evaluation Report 2011) confirmed that communities and service providers surveyed largely support night patrols, but better data is required to more comprehensively assess their performance.

The recommended performance and reporting framework in this paper will assist community night patrols to both improve and demonstrate their effectiveness. The framework is consistent with good practice in performance measurement, and responds to the various challenges of measuring performance for the community night patrol program, such as patrols’ diverse operating environments, limited administrative resources, and the need to ensure that local and accumulative successes, most visible to the local community, are not missed in high-level program and whole-of-government monitoring.

Dr Adam Tomison