Crime Wave Hits Surrey Heath

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.

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3 thoughts on “Crime Wave Hits Surrey Heath

  1. Che 8 August 2013 at 4:22 pm Reply

    There’s a few things to challenge here, common with reporting on crime figures..

    Firstly, giving percentages is misleading – you need the full numbers to realise what it means:
    Burglary – up from 45 to 60 incidents
    Non-dom burglary – 59 to 85
    Drug offences – 66 to 85
    Vehicle crime – 76 to 85
    Theft – 277 to 335.

    So apart from Theft (which is going up nationally, in particular targeted at smartphones – be careful people! – which is linked to organised crime groups), the numbers are actually pretty small.

    Secondly, you haven’t mentioned that overall crime is down 12.2% in SHBC, from 3,900 to 3,423. I’m all for local accountability by bloggers, but it needs to be a fair report.

    Thirdly, there’s a massive problem with the binary reporting of crime data from two fixed points in time a year apart. It gives no sense of the direction of travel. There can be many reasons for a spike in crime rates – a single offender going off on one, an enforcement push by police on a specific issue (I’d hazard that’s why drug offences have risen – and also you’d expect more reporting of low-level offences under a “zero tolerance” approach) – but the simple comparison is very poor performance management. Read this for more details:

    So, is this a “crime wave”? Possibly…possibly not. The data, as we have it, is insubstantial to provide a full assessment. Makes a nice headline, though…

  2. Richard Wilson 8 August 2013 at 4:41 pm Reply

    All the numbers seem quite big to me, for a borough, for a period of only three months.

    The reduction in crime you mention was for the year before, so a falling trend has been reversed by the look of the first quarter of this year.

    I understand the problem with reported crime figures that not all crimes show up if they are not reported to the police, certainly rapes and frauds could be distorted by how diligently police forces seek out these offences. However, I doubt victims of domestic burglaries feel they can’t report it to the police. Anecdotally, there have been many more burglaries locally this year, including in my own street in Windlesham.

    The police officer being interviewed for the article didn’t mention these possible statistical anomalies. He does say that crime is rising though. He sounds rightly concerned about it too.

  3. Che 8 August 2013 at 5:19 pm Reply

    What are you comparing those numbers to, though? To know if that’s “big”, you’d need to be able to benchmark it against other similar boroughs, and look at longer-term historical performance.

    I have a feeling the police officer isn’t probably up on the intricacies of community safety performance management😉 – and maybe, just maybe, the press pulled out one quote from him to support their story.

    Ultimately what I’m saying is – I don’t think those figures alone give us an accurate picture of what’s happening with crime in this area. I would like to see a more nuanced approach before I start making judgements. You may well be right, it’s going to hell in a handcart – but it might not be.

    As for SHBC, I’d begin by asking what action the local Joint Action Groups (JAGs) have taken to address any emerging hotspots for these issues (if there really are any).

    One other thing – PC Rain has a big influence on crime rates. If last spring was particularly wet (it was), that has a natural impact on crime figures of almost every type (criminals stay inside when it’s wet – true). That’s why you need to see a rolling three-year line graph to really know what’s happening with crime, not just a binary comparison.

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