Rising crime spurs Brighton and Hove councillors to call on government for extra police funding

Posted On 10 Oct 2017 at 12:59 am

Rising crime in Brighton and Hove has spurred councillors to call on the government for extra funding for policing.

The call comes after it was revealed that crime went up just over 9 per cent in the year to the end of March compared with the year before.

And first quarter figures – covering April, May and June – were up almost 10 per cent on the first quarter a year earlier.

They recorded an increase in the number of crimes from 6,185 in the first quarter a year ago to 6,760 this year – more than 70 crimes a day in Brighton and Hove.

A report to members of Brighton and Hove City Council said that 2,710 violent offences were recorded in the quarter – up from 2,344 a year earlier.

There were 237 sexual offences – up from 181 – and in the same three-month period there were 88 robberies – up from 54.

The report, to the council’s Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities and Equalities Committee, said that there were2,197 cases of theft and handling – not including motor vehicles – up from 2,093. And bike thefts rose from 172 to 302.

The number of domestic violence incidents and crimes rose from 1,276 to 1,319 and anti-social behaviour cases went up from 2,776 to 2,882.

The police commander for Brighton and Hove, Chief Superintendent Lisa Bell, said that the increase had slowed during the second quarter.

And the city was outperforming other areas of the wider county served by Sussex Police.

The most recent figures for the year to date indicated that crime was rising at nearer 5 per cent – half the rate of rise during the first quarter.

The report to councillors suggested that better recording over the past few years was still one of the reasons for the increases.

And there had also been a push to encourage victims of previously under-reported crimes, such as domestic violence, to come forward.

Chief Superintendent Bell said that while, as district commander, the rise in crime was uncomfortable, Brighton and Hove remained a very safe place to live.

Chief Superintendent Lisa Bell

The council’s head of community safety Peter Castleton spoke about some of the trends when the Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities and Equalities Committee met at the Bridge, in Falmer, yesterday (Monday 9 October).

Mr Castleton said: “We’re seeing an increase in cuckooing where drug dealers take over the premises of a vulnerable person. We’re doing a lot of work on this. It’s a worrying trend.”

Sussex Police and the council have worked together to tackle the issue, with tactics including asking the courts for closure orders on the homes where dealers have set up shop.

He added: “We’ve got a bit of a thickening soup. We’ve got a smaller cohort of offenders but they’re offending more frequently.”

And he pointed to the efforts being made by youth offending workers who were doing their best to keep young people out of the criminal justice system.

He said that once young people had a criminal record it could be hard for them to find work, leaving them more likely to be drawn into further crime.

Councillors were concerned by the rising crime stats and spoke about wanting to support the work of the police and others to tackle the problem.

Councillor Garry Peltzer Dunn said: “The actual rankings for Brighton and Hove are disappointing to say the least.”

Councillor Garry Peltzer Dunn

Chief Superintendent Bell said: “It’s really useful to look at the rankings as an indicator (but) I think it’s healthy to have a scepticism about how useful the rankings actually are.”

Mr Castleton added that the rankings were meant to compare the level of crime among similar councils but few had to cope with, for example, Brighton’s influx of visitor numbers.

Councillor Clare Moonan said: “It’s very disturbing to see a 10 per cent increase in recorded crime, especially violent crimes, sexual offences and robbery.

“Reporting’s gone up but the number of crimes solved has gone down.

“I find, as a ward councillor, there’s almost a bit of reporting fatigue.”

Mr Castleton said: “We are solving more cases but the proportion is falling.”

He explained some of the factors that affected the figures such as when victims of domestic violence decided not to co-operate.

Councillor Clare Moonan

Chief Superintendent Bell urged people not to give up reporting crime – even low-level crime – and anti-social behaviour.

She said: “Anti-social behaviour can be a drip, drip, drip. We cannot complete the evidence-gathering process overnight. It is sometimes a jigsaw, putting the pieces together.

“We need the information, we need the intelligence and we need to maintain relations with communities.”

Councillor Pete West said: “I find reading this report incredibly depressing. It’s incredibly worrying.

Crime is up 10 per cent. Violent crime is up 18 per cent. It’s horrendous.”

Councillor West said that he accepted that there were changes in reporting methods and other complexities but he added: “The long-term trends are extremely clear. Crimes are going up across the board in pretty much every area unless you’ve got a car.”

He said: “Do we need send a message to the government? We need more police and more policing resource.”

Councillor Pete West

He welcomed new schemes such as community guardians but asked whether they were ways of policing on the cheap or DIY policing.

He said: “We’ve got a good longstanding organisation that does this stuff. It’s called the police. Maybe we should get businesses to sponsor a bobby.”

He said that he was worried that criminals were no longer feeling the force of the law because they just weren’t present on the streets.

And Councillor Dee Simson was concerned that weak sentences handed out by the courts failed to deter people, particularly young people, from criminal offending.

She said: “They see sentencing for serious crimes as being quite minimal sometimes.”

Councillor Emma Daniel, who chairs the committee, said that the police had been “cut far too much” but added that there had also been changes to probation and the prison system.

Councillor Emma Daniel

Councillor Amanda Knight highlighted a rise in sexual assaults among under 18s – where the offender and victim were both children.

Chief Superintendent Bell said: “It’s a really significant issue.”

She said that the force had done a lot of work when sexting came into common parlance but was also keen not to criminalise young people but to rehabilitate them when possible.

She added: “There is almost certainly under-reporting.”

The committee voted to call on council chief executive Geoff Raw to write to Home Secretary Amber Rudd about the long-term crime trends in Brighton and Hove – and to ask for a significant increase in police and criminal justice funding to combat them.

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