CAMPAIGNS: Public Sector - Safer streets programme gets PR gloss

The London Borough of Camden's Boulevard Project hopes to bring continental levels of cleanliness and safety to north London's streets. Over a four-year period, Camden is spending £20m from its capital budget to improve street life.

The programme covers anti-crime initiatives, including a partnership between street wardens, police and local shopkeepers to crack down on shoplifting. But as the only council in the UK to wash as well as sweep its streets, Camden is devoting the bulk of the budget to replacing or relaying pavements, to meet the rigours of daily cleansing.

Initially, this expense and disruption provoked criticism from residents, councillors and the local press, so Camden hired Ala'ddin PR to try and counter this.

Objectives

To build understanding of the Boulevard Project among residents, contractors, councillors and the media. Camden also wanted to broaden awareness of the programme to establish its credentials as the national standard for caring for the streets.

Strategy and Plan

Initially, Ala'ddin hit the Camden streets to rebut claims from the press that the council was short-changing residents on the quality of its new paving.

In November 2001, the Boulevard Project team commissioned a national MORI survey looking at what people thought about cleanliness and street safety compared to those of other European cities. A sample of 2,000 revealed that after the lack of a police presence, people worried most about broken pavements, pot holes, litter, graffiti, illegal street traders and fly-postering.

Ala'ddin and the Boulevard Project used these findings to raise the issues surrounding the Camden initiative with the media.

Press releases, plus live and recorded radio interviews were used to highlight how insurance claims against the council had dropped.

Measurement and Evaluation

Over the first year of the campaign, the Boulevard Project gained 20 appearances on regional radio stations and three items on regional TV news programmes, including GMTV, which carried the results of the MORI poll along with film of Camden's graffiti-busters.

The project has also featured in The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and on Radio 4's You and Yours, as well as in local and specialist press, such as Police Review and Municipal Journal.

Negative coverage of the project from local journalists has all but ceased.

Results

The Government's spending watchdog, the Audit Commission, singled out the Boulevard Project as an example for other local councils to follow. Camden has received enquiries from other councils eager to emulate its programme, but similar schemes have yet to be implemented.

Home Secretary David Blunkett has highlighted the project's success in cutting shoplifting by 60 per cent.

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