Community safety officers have become central to the delivery of crime prevention and community safety policy both in Australia and elsewhere. This article reviews the community safety officer (CSO) role in local government and provides results from interviews with CSOs in the Australian state of Victoria. The experiences, challenges and problems faced by CSOs in implementing Victorian schemes are outlined. It is argued that the focus by governments and criminologists on developing training packages, competencies and identifying 'what works' discounts the administrative and political environments in which local level CSOs work. These contexts present obstacles to strategy development and implementation. Likewise a similar criticism is made of the governmentality thesis, that it too fails to engage with and interrogate local practice, overlooking issues of contingency and agency that encompass the CSO role. It is concluded that this role is one concerned with change management, and that building CSO capacity requires the devolution of authority, resources and decision-making powers. Understanding how CSOs manage the barriers and 'crisis' they face in crime prevention and community safety will tell us more about 'what works' that is germane to effective policy development and implementation.