A shocking story on the front page of today’s Camberley News and Mail reveals what many Surrey Heath residents have been suspecting: a massive increase in crime levels in the last few months.
The data is for the first three months of this financial year, and compared with the same period last year:
- Domestic burglary is up 33%
- Non-domestic burglary is up 44%
- Drug offences are up 29%
- Vehicle crime is up 11%
- Theft is up 21%
These are appalling statistics and the only way to describe what is happening is to call it what it is: a crime wave.
There have been significant public policy changes in the recent past and it is reasonable to examine whether they have contributed to this disaster.
Firstly, local and national government have removed the safety net for many vulnerable people. Surrey Heath Borough Council has been at the forefront of this, as I have written before. It would not be surprising if these policies have led to more people turning to drugs and therefore acquisitive crime to finance their habit. At the same time, the Tory-LibDem Coalition has slashed police budgets, including Surrey’s.
Secondly, last November Surrey elected its first Police and Crime Commissioner, Kevin Hurley, who stood on the simplistic and populist platform of ‘Zero Tolerance’. By concentrating on being tough with young people and imposing harsh penalties after an offender is caught, have Surrey Police been distracted from crime prevention? Is it a coincidence that our county’s first year without tolerance has started with an unprecedented crime wave? A two-word slogan is no substitute for a coherent community safety programme, which is something we lack.
Between them, SHBC and the PCC, have set the scene for today’s horrific crime wave in Surrey Heath. The residents whose houses and cars are broken into as a result will be the ones who pay the price for their ideologically flawed policies.