Hi-tech way to help troubled families

A GREAT Yarmouth police officer has developed an ingenious computerised system which is being hailed by Home Office officials as an important step forward in fighting neighbourhood problems and helping vulnerable people and troubled families.

PC Gary Pettengell, who worked on his ECINS (Empowering Communities Inclusion and Neighbourhood Management System) software while off-duty, described it as a “secure way for agencies to share up-to-date information and deal with issues”.

He said the beauty of the system was that it could be accessed by authorised users via the internet in a similar way to online banking, allowing agencies who may be using different computer systems to pool their knowledge effectively.

The initiative, which will be piloted in Yarmouth, has been developed under the umbrella of empoweringcommunities.org, a not-for-profit social enterprise set up by PC Pettengell in Lowestoft.

Yarmouth police chief Supt Jim Smerdon said: “This pilot provides an opportunity for further partner-ship working and provides assistance to families who require support. We will monitor its progress.”

PC Pettengell, whose budding enterprise has already developed successful schemes to help problem gamblers and drinkers, said government officials who met him recently acclaimed ECINS as “the Big Society in action”.

They had agreed to showcase it at a seminar for government advisers, Home Office department heads and representatives of community safety partnerships from across England.

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He explained how the system could help agencies – from the police to social services and children’s services – better keep track of all kinds of cases, from domestic abuse and anti-social behaviour victims to people battling addictions and prone to re-offending.

For example, if a drug addict stopped attending therapy sessions, that would be immediately noted on the system to alert other agencies.

PC Pettengell said: “It allows agencies to hold virtual meetings and quickly decide on a joint course of action that might solve a problem before it crops up.”

He said it could avoid the time-wasting duplication of more than one agency visiting someone.

The system, which is being provided to authorised users at cost price without the need for a user licence, has built-in alarm trigger messages so, for example, agencies might be made aware at Halloween that an antisocial behaviour victim was particularly vulnerable.

PC Pettengell said ECINS addressed criticism in a recent report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabul-aries that partners fighting antisocial behaviour were let down by a meetings culture and insufficiently rapid information sharing.