Embedding Prevention at Hertfordshire Constabulary
Police forces across the nation are beginning to pay more attention to how crime can be prevented, rather than solely relying on reactive approaches. One notable example is Hertfordshire’s ‘Prevention First’ strategy. Inspired by the programme of the same name in New Zealand, it is helping to embed prevention at the heart of everything that happens at the constabulary.
Hertfordshire Constabulary launched their ‘Prevention First’ approach in December 2020 with the goal to be fully implemented by 2024. The fundamental idea for this approach is to embed prevention as the golden thread running through the entirety of the force’s activities.
The programme has five key objectives guiding the mission:
- Support our people
- Include our workforce
- Work with stakeholders
- Define and deliver a preventive operating model
- Identify and deliver measurable improvements
Hertfordshire are currently focused on bringing about new approaches in three key areas:
- Vision and Communications
The force has evolved their vision from ‘catch criminals, reduce crime, keep people safe’ to ‘preventing harm, preventing crime, preventing offending, increasing trust, and working together.’ Continuous updates on the programme’s progress are published to the force. This frequent communication helps build momentum and a collective identity around the approach.
2. Organisational Development
The force is engaging in significant organisational changes to shift mindsets and transform culture. Led by the Chief Constable and PCC, these changes are articulated in the Police and Crime Plan and benefit from £4.1 million additional funding (for 2021-4) raised from a council tax precept.
Key initiatives within the programme are:
- The Prevention First Academy which is delivering leadership training and more general preventive training for all police officers and staff, to ensure knowledge of prevention methodology across the force.
- The Prevention First Hub and Prevention First Portal which provide a platform for officers and staff to request guidance and support for an identified operational issue or an organisational inefficiency.
- Recruiting an additional 77 officers to support targeted prevention and engagement strategies. The bulk of the funding is for this recruitment process.
3. Partnership Working
Preventing police demand and organisational inefficiencies is a key ‘Prevention First ‘goal. While the initial focus has been on enhancing officer skills and mindsets – and changing internal processes and activities, the organisation will increasingly shift its focus to redeveloping their multiagency vision. This will be achieved by improving already strong partner links and creating new ones, as well as better engagement with their communities.
 Additionally, the force’s communication channel, ‘echo’ enhances connection with the public by offering an easily accessible mechanism for individuals to provide feedback. This improves their ability to gauge public sentiment and increase trust.
The Prevention First strategy provides an effective example of how a force can begin to develop its organisational culture and mindsets through additional training and communication.
T/Superintendent Lynda Coates, who is leading on Prevention First implementation, said:
“Investing in our people will make the Prevention First philosophy come alive. Although in the early stage of implementing this cultural shift, we are seeing growing positivity for change through the Leading for Prevention course, highlighting what preventive policing means for our leaders and how to create a ‘safe’ environment within their teams so innovation can thrive.
We are seeing teams transforming working practices, including a current project designed to free up hundreds of officer hours through better management of section 136 mental health detentions.
By equipping our workforce to confidently think differently, we will deliver meaningful and lasting changes positively impacting our communities.”