The reality of crime in Wiltshire is very different to what the statistics tell us
Policing priorities is quite a tricky business to get right, and since becoming Police and Crime Commissioner, I’ve found it quite surprising how much they can differ from one resident to the next, even if they live in the same area.
Whilst there’s the obvious priorities that come with the highest threat, harm and risk, there are also those that matter to our residents and affect the lives of them and their families on a daily basis.
It became quite clear to me early on that we didn’t have as good an understanding of public expectations when it comes to policing and community safety as we should do, and the subsequent consultation my office led on around Christmas and the new year has proved invaluable in re-establishing those goalposts.
Drug dealing topped the list of concerns, closely followed by anti-social behaviour and as these crime types are often intrinsically linked, and some of the most visible in our communities this should come as no surprise.
In a similar vein to the above, respondents of which there were 2,771, mostly thought that funding from my office should be directed towards safer streets and early intervention.
We know that breaking the cycle of offending early and effectively rehabilitating those who commit crimes is key to preventing them from committing further offences, and this is something that has become a key focus point in my Police and Crime Plan.
A reactive police force is not the position that I, or the Chief Constable wants for Wiltshire Police. To be ahead of the game we need to ensure proactive policing and community safety initiatives that prevent crime from happening in the first place. This has included the introduction of the youth commission to ensure that the views of young people are heard and reflected in police and crime matters.
As the old adage says, prevention is always better than cure. Ultimately fewer crimes mean fewer victims and that’s absolutely the place that I want Wiltshire Police to be in.
I’ve been saying for some time now that to effectively tackle crime in Wiltshire we need to have a better understanding of what the reality is, and not just focus on what the statistics tell us. I’m very aware that a significant number of crimes go unreported and the responses to my consultation backed that up, 1 in 3 residents who had been a victim of crime hadn’t reported what had happened to anyone, not police, their local authority, Crimestoppers or anyone in between.
Whilst there are many reasons why an individual may not want to report being a victim of crime, the fact that this could be as many as half of all victims in Wiltshire is astounding and we must do better to increase public confidence and trust.
This is something else that I’ve set as a priority for the Chief Constable and Wiltshire Police in my Police and Crime Plan and will continue to work alongside them to ensure that come the next public consultation, public confidence and trust is in a much better place.
To do this we absolutely have make sure that everyone has a seat at the table and is heard, including those in younger age groups and in hard-to-reach communities, who may not feel that their experiences, concerns or feedback matter as much as others.