Introduction Partnership forums have become the accepted mode of strategy development and program delivery in the field of crime prevention and community safety internationally (Crawford 1998a; Crawford & Matassa 2000; Hughes 1998, 1996; Walters 1996; Sutton 1994; van Dijk 1991; Wikstrom & Torstensson 1999). The partnership model is underpinned by the key assumption that community safety by its nature is a multi-faceted problem and beyond the capacity of any single agency to address. Partnerships are understood as affording an holistic approach to crime and safety, with responses being problem-focused rather than bureaucratically-premised, allowing for the co-ordination and sharing of effort, expertise and information and the pooling of resources (Crawford 1998a; Gilling 1993, 1994, 1996; Rosenbaum 2002).
An extensive literature already exists on the operation of community safety and crime prevention partnerships, with a number of key elements identified as determining the effectiveness of partnership forums. For example it is important that partnerships have unambiguous objectives and a sense of focus, with participating agencies clear about their inputs and responsibilities and what they are required to contribute to the partnership and resulting strategies. To ensure partnerships are open and transparent, formal processes of conflict management should exist. Dedicated support by a co-ordinator, as well as adequate resourcing is also vital in sustaining partnerships. Given partnerships are supposed to be problem focused they need access to good quality data and protocols for information sharing. Members should ideally be drawn from senior levels, so that partnerships possess authority to influence the strategies and practices of their respective agencies in line with partnership recommendations. Finally, there needs to be commitment and consistent participation by all members.
This article discusses and analyses the operation of community safety partnerships initiated under the Victorian program Safer Cities and Shires. It looks at how they operated and aims to identify factors that impacted on the dynamics of local partnerships. The author argues that broader State government policy and action (or inaction) undermined the effective operation of local partnerships formed under Safer Cities and Shires. The lessons from this case study highlight that without commitment to the devolution of resources, authority and decision-making powers, partnerships will struggle to effectively deliver State-wide policies on crime prevention and community safety.