The Essex Violence and Vulnerability Unit (VVU) are currently trialling a location monitoring scheme, using ‘Buddi Tags’, to address the involvement of vulnerable individuals in serious organised crime and as a preventative tool for those currently at risk of being exploited or trafficked. The Essex Police ‘Buddi Tag’ initiative has been operational a number of years but has yet to be formally evaluated. The initiative is an offender-based operation which invites individuals to voluntarily wear a tracking/location monitoring device or a ‘Buddi Tag’. A Buddi Tag uses location data from GPS (satellite), GSM (standard mobile phone signal), WiFi and RF (radio frequency) to provide 24-hour location data on the wearer. The system is capable of providing up to date information on the wearer's movements and enables a comprehensive tracking and analytical review to take place. Location monitoring is different to that of electronic monitoring, which is used as a ‘punishment’ or as a condition of bail to enforce curfews. Location monitoring cannot currently be used in such a way, although can be used as a means to enforce /monitor a condition of bail or sentence if the wearer is amenable to this. The Essex Violence and Vulnerability Unit (VVU) has identified an opportunity for Buddi Tags to be used as a preventative tool for those currently at risk of being exploited or trafficked. For example, to safeguard individuals who are exploited by County Lines Gangs. The logic being that those running such enterprises do not want a person wearing a tag within their ‘trap-house’ or ‘on road’ as part of their operation. Therefore, those fitted with a tag are far less likely to be utilised by the gangs. The Buddi Tag Scheme also offers an opportunity for intervention with vulnerable individuals, who have expressed a desire to desist involvement with serious organised crime or organised crime gangs.
The aims of the Buddi Tag Scheme are to:
Reduce vulnerable individuals' involvement in serious organised crime activity, such as County Lines involvement
Reduce offending among Buddi Tag wearers
Safeguard vulnerable individuals involved in serious organised crime and provide opportunities for support and access to support services
Reduce the incidence of missing persons
An independent evaluation of the Buddi Tag Scheme is being conducted by the Policing Institute for the Eastern Region (PIER). The aims of this evaluation are:
To measure the extent to which the Buddi Tag Scheme has met it’s aims (outlined above)
To identify any challenges to achieving the aims of the Buddi Tag Scheme
To identify any ways in which the Buddi Tag Scheme could be improved
A mixed-methods approach will be taken for this evaluation, with the collection of quantitative and qualitative data.
Quantitative data will be provided by the Essex VVU/Essex Police on those individuals currently involved in the Buddi Tag Scheme. Data will be sought in the following areas:
Number of individuals referred to the Buddi Tag Scheme
Demographics of individuals involved in the scheme (e.g. age, gender, location of residence)
Dates and duration of wearing Buddi Tag
Details of referral to the Scheme
Offending behaviour/criminal activity involvement before, during and after Buddi Tag scheme
Operational issues with Buddi Tags (e.g. technological issues, number of tags removed by wearers)
Monitoring data from Buddi Tag wearers (e.g. alerts from Buddi Tag that led to further intervention/escalation from VVU team)
Online survey An online survey has been designed for the police officers/staff involved in the Buddi Tag Scheme to capture the views of those working with the Scheme and with the individuals involved, as well as to identify any challenges in delivery and areas for improvement. There were 10 responses to the survey from officers and police staff involved in the Buddi Tag programme. Qualitative interviews
Interviews have been conducted with stakeholders who have worked closely with participants who have worn a Buddi Tag. Seven interviews have been conducted with Youth Offending Team (YOT) workers, Children and Young Person (CYP) police officers and police staff involved in the Buddi Tag programme. The purpose of these interviews is to explore, from a stakeholder perspective:
How has wearing the Buddi Tag prevented (or failed to prevent) involvement in criminal activity?
How has the Buddi Tag Scheme supported (or impeded) the individual to reduce or exit connections with serious organised crime?
How has involvement in the Buddi Tag Scheme created (or impeded) opportunities for support and access to support services?
Positive or negatives experiences of being involved in the Buddi Tag Scheme
Interviews will also be collected to understand the participant’s experience in the Buddi Tag Scheme. It is important to note that the individuals eligible for the Buddi Tag Scheme are highly vulnerable individuals, predominately under the age of 18, who are likely to have been involved in traumatic experiences. The evaluation team will work closely with the Essex VVU throughout the evaluation to ensure that all appropriate safeguarding and ethical considerations are in place prior to data collection. Should it be decided that contacting individuals involved in the Buddi Tag Scheme is not appropriate or possible for ethical or safeguarding reasons, the evaluation will focus on the interviews conducted with stakeholders who have worked closely with Buddi Tag wearers. These individuals are likely to have a close relationship with the individual and an understanding of their circumstances and involvement with serious organised criminal activity and be able to provide some details on the above points. Interviews were conducted online by phone or video-call (i.e. MS Teams or Zoom).