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Collaborative problem solving for community safety
Collaborative problem solving for community safety

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1 Searching for and making sense of information

1.1 Different types and sources of information

It is important to recognise first of all that information comes in a variety of forms which affect the ways you may be able to use it.

  • Quantitative information

    Information presented in numerical or graphical formats. Examples include reports about levels of crime, local property values, business investment or average wages, waiting times at the local A&E or even reports from surveys about local community members’ attitudes to safety and risk.

  • Qualitative information

    Written, spoken or visual information which indicates something about the quality of life or work within a community. This is often gathered through interviews or focus groups with community members, or from third party observations.

  • Situational information and ongoing intelligence

    Information gathered or provided to assess a specific situation or set of circumstances. Eye-witness reports to an accident or crime are a good example of this. Other information, which we often refer to as ongoing intelligence, is gathered from a variety of sources over a long period to enable us to examine particular patterns of for example organised crime behaviours or road traffic activity.

  • Subjective and objective information

    Information which is provided as an expression of someone’s opinion, has to be weighed against that which is from a neutral, disinterested source.

Understanding information is not just a question of what type of information you gather but where it can be found. Some information comes from personal experience or contacts, some from organisational sources like managers or staff reports, some from the mass media such as radio, TV or newspapers, and increasing amounts of information (as well as a fair amount of misinformation) comes from social media.

Issues of community safety often require the gathering and sifting of these various forms of information about sources of threat and risks, and their causes, and about the consequences and impacts. The problems identified are often not straightforward or simple to understand, and consequently difficult to resolve. In the next study activity you will learn one simple method for categorising the information you gather and receive to give you an indication of whether you gain a balanced view of a situation.

Activity 1 What types of information do you use?

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes for this activity.

You will come across all manner of everyday information, which tells you something about what is going on in your local area from community notice boards to local newspapers, from websites to regular community group meetings. Make a list of the different sources of information you have come across and any more you can think of.

Now try to categorise the type of information you get from each of these sources by positioning them on the diagram below:

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Discussion

The majority of the information we receive is very subjective as it is often offered to back up someone’s opinion or argument for a change or improvement. It is often seen as important to present information in a balanced or objective way but for most of us it is very difficult to keep our opinions separate from the information we choose (or choose not) to present. The best way of gaining a balanced view of any event or situation is to gather information from a range of sources which represent a broad range of the different views which have a bearing on it.