Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation Trust – winner of Ordnance Survey’s GeoVation Challenge: ‘How can we Transform Neighbourhoods in Britain together?’ – is using geography and technology to engage the public and improve its Community Payback programme.
Community Payback projects involve unpaid work that offenders are instructed to do by the courts as part of a community sentence. Projects are typically litter removal, dealing with fly-tipping, cleaning graffiti, clearing dense undergrowth and clearing canals.
The projects give offenders the chance to develop important life skills. They help to reduce the risk of reoffending, making communities safer. Finding the right project location is an important part of the process and requires interaction from the (local) public remained relatively low. The Probation Trust recognised a need to give members of the public an easier way to nominate projects and much greater visibility to the work being done, thereby creating a better community for everyone.
Using Ordnance Survey’s OS MasterMap Topography Layer, the trust plans to display GPS locations with pinpoint accuracy on a mobile phone. The app allows geo-tagged photographs to be taken and members of the public can send these to the Trust with additional information regarding sites they would like offenders to work on. Back in the office, The Trust pinpoints this location using OS MasterMap Topography data to build up a picture of potential sites, looking at offender locations and identifying the most appropriate site to develop.
Not all projects are suitable, but every nomination (even anonymous ones) will return a unique URL to the app, which is used to track the progress of the submission. The Trust notifies nominees automatically as updates happen.
Suitable projects will be posted on a large-scale Ordnance Survey map and placed on a public website. The Trust will add photos of work being done, sites which have been cleaned up and feedback from the offenders about their experiences.
Members of the public can follow the Trust’s app building progress on Twitter: @swmcpvisibility and also view its blog at: www.swmcpv.blogspot.co.uk.
Displaying the exact geographical location, along with a photo and accompanying information, significantly streamlines the process for identifying and assessing the suitability of sites for Community Payback. The process for assessing and allocating projects will be more digitised and more efficient as a result and it will be possible to assess projects without the usual ground visit. Planning a sequence of work will free- up staff time for establishing contract work that the Trust also undertakes. Linking local projects to specific geographical points helps to make the local community feel more engaged in decision making. It also helps to make the punishment and rehabilitation of offenders more visible and more meaningful to their communities.
Currently, the PSMA has enabled valuable work in the community worth over £3.5 million per annum, to be undertaken at no cost to local services across Staffordshire and the West Midlands. The new app will provide a further increase to the level of value that the projects achieve but without the PSMA this project would not have been possible.