Crime in Thurrock: Has the public lost faith in the police?

INTRODUCTION

IN 2008 a sex offence was reported in Thurrock on average, every single day. In 2010, it has decreased to twice a week.

You always feared for the police when they entered the stats business. It came at a time when the transferred from being a force to a service. It came at a time known as the “data explosion.”

For years now, the publish the stats that relate to recorded crime and proudly announce that in many occasions it is falling. What else are they to do?

It is full of pitfalls. One of them is that they don’t publish how many crimes have been detected or solved. For that, you have to submit a freedom of information request (FOI).

It does look like they are only giving you what you want to know. Not a criticism. They have to market themselves in the best light possible and our job as a newspaper is to question.

THE STATISTICS

Recorded crime has gone down in Thurrock, in every instance except burglary. In 2009, there were 1408 burglaries. In 2010, there were 1658. In 2009, 17% were solved. In 2010, 22% were solved.

Compared to last year: The detection rate for violence against the person has increased by 1%; sex offences has increased by 4%; robbery has increased by 9%; fraud by 8%; drug offences by 35% (!), criminal damage by 1% and burglary by 4%.

In many ways, Thurrock police should be congratulated. Yes, we know it continues to beg more questions: how many cases end up being rejected by the Crown Prosecution Service? How many make it to courts; how many make it to trial or a conviction and so on.

One of the figures that stands out is sex offences. In 2008, there were 360 reported, almost one a day. In 2010 it had fallen to 95.

Most agencies, look at that figure with incredulity and many fear that with sexual offences and with many other crimes that the public have simply turned away from the police in Thurrock because they are not entirely confident that they are part of the solution.

Some organisations have referred to a “rape cyclone” going through Thurrock and cannot relate the data regarding only 95 offences in 2009-10.

What do Essex Police say?

DCI Simon Anslow, who is in charge of Thurrock and Basildon CID teams, said: “The year on year reports of sexual offences do show a decrease, particularly last year. If these figures reflect a real reduction of offences, then obviously that is positive, but unfortunately it is hard to differentiate between reduction in offending and reduction in reporting.

“The reporting mechanisms Essex Police has in place are fit for purpose; it is widely publicised that if you have been a victim of crime you can visit a police station and talk to someone in confidence, you can call us or you can contact us electronically through our website.

“Sexual offences have historically had a lower solved rate than other crimes. Any sexual offence is a horrific crime to go through and we often find that victims simply cannot face reporting it until days, months or sometimes years after the event. Serious sexual offences are rarely witnessed and where where reporting is delayed for any reason vital evidence can be lost. The circumstances of these offences, particularly where the victim and suspect know one another, make proving the absence of consent extremely difficult no matter how much officers believe and support the victim. Only a very small number of rapes reported to Police are committed by a stranger.

“The Essex Sexual Offences Referral Centre opened in 2010, and is a safe and confidential centre that gives the best care available in Essex to anyone who has experienced sexual assault and violence by bringing together health professionals, police officers, paediatricians and crisis workers under one roof. The centre, which was commissioned by Essex Police and primary care trusts through the county, provides a 24-hour service seven days a week.

“Essex Police treats rape and sexual violence with the highest priority. Every rape investigation is personally led by a Detective Inspector and regularly reviewed by more senior officers. We have officers who specialise in dealing with domestic violence and dedicated teams who will investigate child abuse. On receipt of any allegation the objective of the investigators is to establish the truth of events and bring offenders to justice.

“Reports of rape and sexual offences are highly emotive and Essex Police does not underestimate the impact such crimes have on their victims. We continue to support the victims along with partnership agencies and voluntary services to ensure that they are fully supported through the investigation and beyond.”

The Councils response

Thurrock Council’s portfolio holder for public protection, cllr Lynn Worrall has echoed the police line that there has never been a better support mechanism in place.

Cllr Worrall said: “In regard to the wider point about any possible loss of faith by women in the criminal justice system, I would draw your attention to just three of a number of nationally-acclaimed programmes, explicitly designed to counter this, which have been introduced in Thurrock during this period with the active involvement of the Council.

“These include the introduction of a Specialist Domestic Violence Court. This has been set up to ensure that prosecutions for offences of domestic violence are dealt with by magistrates and lawyers who have received additional training to cope with the particular complexities of these cases.

“Similarly, victims and witnesses receive more sensitive treatment when they are at court. They are also supported by an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor before, during and after the court case. This post is funded by the Community Safety Partnership, of which the Council is a key member.

“The most recent development is the joint commissioning of a Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Basildon.
This is a safe and confidential specialist centre providing services which support victims of sexual assault to minimise the long-term emotional and physical consequences. It is already well-established as a vital part of the services available to women and girls in Thurrock.

These examples demonstrate the Council’s continued determination to work vigorously with all our partners, including Essex Police and other statutory agencies, as well as the non-statutory groups such as SERICC and Thurrock Women’s Aid, to combat all aspects of violence against women and girls.

The viewpoint of the public

People appear to be  fed up with reporting crimes to the police, the police taking a report and then asking: “What would you like me to do about it?

The anecdotal evidence in relation to this particular heinous crime and many other crimes is as follows:

1. A number of communities in Thurrock appear to have no relationship with the police and there are members of that community who will engage with some organisations but not with the police.

2. There are many women who say: ‘In cases, even as mild harrassment, I and many of my friends, deal with it within the community. It may sound laughable but many of us go back to, we will get our dad/boyfriend/mates onto him.”

3.Many people don’t recognise the police as part of the criminal justice system in Thurrock or put it another way, see them as part of the problem and not part of the solution

There is a real danger that they have divested themselves from so many crimes or offences. “Dangerous dogs…council…noisy parties…council….anti-social behaviour…council….”

There are people who are fed up with it. On polling day in May this year, YT went from Fobbing to Aveley gauging what was important to people. One voter in Corringham said: “There is a real cultural difference in Thurrock in relation to arresting people.

“I have seen people committing serious acts of anti-social behaviour and they give it passing attention. Drive on the A13 a few miles above the speed limit and they will be all over you!”

We asked the voter what he did for a living. He said: “I work for the Metropolitan Police!”

You may say that perhaps he should sort his own house in order but we know how he feels and it still sticks on our craw when we put it to Thurrock police that people can set their watches by drug deals in Thurrock.

The response was” “Arrest ten today and there will another ten tomorrow.”

Can you imagine that attitude in relation to drink-driving: “Officer, I have see ten dead drunk drivers weaving in and out of traffic on the A13.”

“Yeah but arrest ten alcoholics and tomorrow………..” You get the drift.

They are the ones that from the early nineties started to think like a business and so, in many ways, have they  lost their place in the market.

“Should they stop saying: What would you like me to do about it?”

People in Thurrock, whether victims of crime or representatives of organisations are getting a bit fed up with police taking a report of a crime and then asking: “What is it that you would like us to do about it.?

We feel sure it isn’t meant to sound the way it comes out but there does seem to be a lack of oomph or intent signalled that no stone will be unturned.

Having said that, we return to the stats which show that detection rates in most cases are going up but perhaps reported crime is going down because people are just getting fed up with how some are presenting themselves?

Conclusion

We don’t think we have one! The response from the police and other agencies seems to suggest that there are a number of ways people can report offences. We just don’t get the impression that people are going to look at this and see it as a problem or an indictment upon them.

To put it crudely (and forgive us if this does seem so) If a shop had 385 customers one week and then it dropped to 95 the next, they would do a lot more than say “Well, we are open, we have an advert on the TV, we have good sales staff etc.”

Essex Police already have a very difficult job and it is about to get even harder. With 43 million pounds worth of cuts, reduced staff, continuing economic uncertainty.

We also understand that political interference can be very frustrating, whether it is from Chelmsford, New Scotland Yard, Whitehall or Westminster.

We understand the tinkering, when one year, a shed is a house and then another year, it is a “lockfast place”

We understand the frustration with paperwork and associated bureaucracy.

But the Thurrock Police really needs a settled side right now if it is going to be seen as a credible organisation within the borough. It needs take a leaf from organisations such as the senior schools and over the last year or so, Thurrock Council, where a settled infrastructure has enabled them to progress.

But the coalition may have difficult questions to answer. In 1979, Margaret Thatcher put her money where her mouth was with the police in relation to the Edmund Davis report which saw a big improvement in police conditions. She knew that she needed them with her through the rocky period between 1979 and 1986.

We hope that Thurrock police understand our position. We remain critical friends and committed to advocating towards a safer Thurrock. We are committed towards a mature, considered debate on the subject of criminal justice but our main concern is that at a time, when they need more resources, the powers that be, are weakening them.

Offences Recorded and Detected in Thurrock UA 2009/10

2009-2010  Number reported/detected and %
Violence against the person 2106 1197 49%
Sexual Offences 95 17 17%
Robbery 143 35 24%
Fraud & Forgery 494 132 26%
Drug Offences 467 442 94%
Criminal Damage 2211 323 14%
Burglary 1658 366 22%

Offences Recorded in Thurrock District
2006-07            2007-08               2008-09
Violence Against The Person 2432 1579 65% 3000 1269 42% 2803 1343 48%
Sexual Offences                         126 43 34% 368 50 14% 197 26 13%
Robbery                                        201 42 21% 588 46 8% 311 46 15%
Fraud & Forgery                         1336 224 17% 882 210 24% 966 171 18%
Drug Offences                            228 206 90% 308 235 76% 544 321 59%
Criminal Damage                     3346 465 14% 2541 472 19% 2958 399 13%
Burglary                                       1815 208 11% 1973 192 10% 1408 251 18%

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