It is not every day you get to have a cuppa with the Chief Constable of Surrey, Nick Ephgrave. I felt immensely privileged to do so recently. It has been a fraught few months in Sunbury from the point of view of antisocial behaviour and burglaries so this was a chance to really understand what the priorities of our county police are. It was very illuminating.
Antisocial Behaviour (ASB) has been in decline in Surrey as a whole, although that is not the case in Sunbury as we know, which has in fact seen a 52.3% increase this year! So the question is, what is the police going to do about it?
The Safer Neighbourhood Team is tasked with understanding ‘quality of life issues’, things which are spoiling our everyday enjoyment of our homes and village. Moped riding, wheeling bicycles, drug taking and littering all come under this category. It is fair to say that local police are indeed aware of issues and I think residents who have complained would agree that they do know. The Police and Partnerships meetings which I have attended make it clear that the issues in our little village are very much on the radar.
But it is also important to look at the bigger picture to understand why you m ay feel not enough is being done to stop it.
The police have to prioritise crimes they consider are endangering life. In the period 2012 (when we were enjoying the Olympics – not so long ago then) to 2016, there was a 72% increase in Domestic Abuse reports in Surrey. That equates to an additional 3200 instances in a year. That is shocking! Child Abuse cases have increased by 68% in the same period. That is 900 extra cases per year, and Child Sexual Exploitation is up by 162%, or 300 more cases per year. That is in Surrey alone. So, is it more important to intervene if a child is being abused or if someone is drug dealing and generally behaving like a pillock? You get the idea.
For 10 years the care in the community policy has meant that many vulnerable people find themselves on the streets where they may not be safe. Since the Olympic year, the police have experienced a 91% increase in missing adults cases. This may be those with Alzheimers or mental illness. The number of cases of missing children is up by 800 more cases a year.
I asked why the big increases. Well, society has changed. Tolerance of a situation has declined and people feel more empowered to come forward in cases of abuse. Just look at what is on our TV screens night after night and how victims are speaking out about historic abuses. Each instance is classified as a separate crime, which has a huge impact on crime figures. New crimes have appeared which didn’t exist before, for example ‘sexting’. Each instance is a new statistic in child abuse.
But back to ASB and how it is affecting our quality of life. We feel disempowered at the situation we are facing in the village. But we can help each other and help the police. DO make calls to lodge a complaint. But do also make the most of social media if you have it. Follow the police on Facebook or Twitter under Surrey Police. You will get updates on police activity, raids and arrests. Likewise follow Spelthorne Beat.
You can comment, share and contribute and hopefully help deter and solve crimes. That in itself may make you feel more empowered. Do keep in touch with local councillors too. They represent you in the Borough and should take notice of your concerns.
If you are a parent and are afraid your child may be heading down the wrong path, why not get them involved in a constructive and positive activity which will give them discipline and strong role models: air cadets, sea cadets, army cadets, scouting, Duke of Edinburgh awards. There are plenty of groups in our area. The police themselves are expanding their own cadet force into Surrey attracting many children from troubled backgrounds and minorities who may be in danger of falling into bad company. We will report on this as the groups are rolled out.
This is not a fix or an answer to our many concerns, but perhaps it sheds some light on what is happening behind the scenes.