Australian Institute of Criminology

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While community patrols are highly valued by Indigenous communities as recently outlined by the evaluation of the NTER (NTER Evaluation Report 2011), there is limited up-to-date performance information and data about the community night patrols. The absence of such information can lead funders and other external stakeholders to form misconceptions about the program’s core business, its value to achieving community safety objectives and its level of accountability. This project aimed to clarify the program’s core role and value, and in this context enhance the framework of accountability for this unique, community-focused program. This was achieved by a desk-top assessment supplemented by a limited number of targeted stakeholder consultations.

Community night patrols can deliver positive impacts and contribute to closing the gap between non-Indigenous and Indigenous life outcomes, particularly those that relate to community safety. As the ANAO’s (2011) audit of NT community night patrols found, this contribution could be better measured if more suitable procedures for collecting and analysing performance information were in place. Following a stakeholder consultation process and a literature review, the AIC developed a suite of Key Performance Areas and Indicators (see Appendix A) for the program and a supporting Generic Reporting Guide (see Appendix B), based on Program Logics developed as part of this research project (see Figures 1 & 2). These are designed to assist with the management of the many pressures on community night patrols by clarifying the outcomes that the program and each community night patrol is most accountable for. In this way, Program Logic clarifies what each community night patrol is not expected to do and clarifies outcomes it is contributing to but not solely responsible for.

Thus, the program as a whole contributes to the outcome of ‘targeted communities feel safer and are safer’, if inputs and activities are in place. However, it is most directly accountable for ‘well targeted and locally respected community night patrols delivering core services effectively’ and ‘knowledge from community about safety is captured and reported’ (see Figure 1). The latter immediate outcomes for the program recognise the unique place of community night patrols in an Indigenous community and the value of harnessing this to provide community-level information through reporting to inform government agencies more generally about progress in community safety.

Community night patrols themselves are accountable under Program Logic for the delivery of core services and reducing over time repeat assistance by such patrols for the same risky incidents and the same vulnerable individuals. The latter outcome is important as it encourages and rewards community night patrols for achieving this, through well-supported referrals and long-term follow up for repeat clients and proactive work to prevent repeat risky incidents. Reducing the need for repeat services to even one client and/or in regard to one type of risky incident can free up significant resources of a community patrol, which can then be used for other crime prevention actions. If the root causes of behaviour are dealt with through better supported referrals and more follow-up by community night patrols, this can make a significant contribution to community safety overall. Inclusion of this outcome in the Program Logic for a community night patrol is not intended to encourage such patrols to avoid assisting clients repeatedly if they require it and it is within their core services. Rather, it aims to encourage effectiveness and innovation by these patrols in how such clients can be better assisted and referred to reduce their needs for repeat community Night Patrol Services.