Mark Wright, the new Commander of Blacktown Police in western Sydney, had been tasked with the complex job of reducing the hotspot of youth crime that was Blacktown’s Central Business District. He knew policing was part of the solution, but didn’t see a harsh law and order crackdown as the answer. After ‘checking the fences’ to see what was happening on the ground and figure out the extent of the problem, he realised a shared-power, multi-stakeholder approach had a better chance of shifting the dial of youth crime and disadvantage in his command area.
This case provides an ideal opportunity for discussion of how to approach an intractable social problem spreading across multiple organisations and policy areas – especially when it’s not obvious who should be in charge. The case can be used to explore and teach issues of problem framing, forming effective cross-government and cross-sector partnerships, stakeholder and community engagement, and client co-design and co-production of services.
Part A describes the situation as Wright encountered it on assuming command in 2008. Large groups of young people were hanging out at the train station and shopping centres, affecting community safety and local businesses in the cultural melting pot of the largest local government area in Western Sydney. For some reason, Thursday ‘fight nights’ were the most volatile day of the week. Wright set about securing the area, talking to community leaders, and learning as much as he could about why these problems were happening.
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