Latest figures just released on the Police.uk crime mapping site confirm a 13% decrease in overall reported crimes across Colnbrook with Poyle in 2012 but a startling increase in five out of eleven categories of crimes.
First the good news. Crime IS significantly down year-on-year, as celebrated by Thames Valley three weeks ago. But the 17% reduction claimed for the newly enlarged policing area as a whole drops to 12.5% when re-adjusted to the calendar year and a focus exclusively on the Colnbrook with Poyle parish and ward boundary.
Far from being a consistent downward trend indicating a controlled reduction in crime, the figures are very erratic. Five months of the year showed an increase against the same month in the previous year. September and October 2012 showed a 21% increase on the reported crimes in 2011 while December 2012 showed a surge of 31% over 2011.
It also seems Thames Valley are still benefitting from something of a crime dividend from a mini crime wave in early 2011 that exaggerates the downward trend claimed.
But then there is the bad news: the mindbogging surge in five out of eleven categories of crime in the ward.
It seems crime HAS fallen considerably but only for some types of crime – anti-social behaviour, robbery, vehicle crime, violent crime, and “other” crime (including fraud, forgery and other miscellaneous crimes).
In figures trumpeted by Thames Valley through the Community Messaging service in January, year on year to November 2012 saw burglary reduced 11%; theft/handling offences down 18%; robbery more than halved at 53%; anti-social behaviour down 32%; vehicle crime down 24%; and criminal damage down 15%.
All very worthy achievements.
But when the figures for Colnbrook with Poyle are looked at in isolation, using the official figures pointed to by the Neighbourhood Policing website, they present a very different picture – most notably the reversal of the 15% decrease in Criminal Damage and Arson into a 315% increase:
The “Olympic Effect”
Nevertheless in December’s Colnbrook/Poyle/Foxborough Neighbourhood Update, Inspector Shelley Squires declared “… the number of victims of crime continues to fall in most crime types“, despite the same or increased counts in over half the crime categories that month in Colnbrook with Poyle. Since there were significantly more crimes recorded in the last quarter of 2012 than quarter 3 (25% more in fact), that update to appears to have been premature.
The well reported “Olympic Effect” nationally reduced crime in the summer months, the only period last year where we saw a quarter on quarter reduction in crime and not something that was necessarily attributable to the “successful operations” carried out, namely:
- Operation Cape which saw targeted patrols of burglary hotspots in the parish and engagement with known offenders. It was run by Local CID using neighbourhood staff.
- Operation Crop involving door to door enquires to conduct home security surveys to combat burglaries and shed breaks.
- Operation Candle which saw street surveys being carried out to record homes in darkness in the evenings. This was followed up with a letter and a free timer switch offered by NHPT to properties that were identified as possibly vulnerable.
- Operation Closure was the NHPT response to any request from housing associations on our area to assist with either disclosure or eviction of repeat ASB offenders.
When changes to neighbourhood policing areas were introduced at the end of last year police chiefs spoke out to reassure residents that areas will be policed by the same number of officers and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs).
Chief Inspector Geoff Robinson said then:
“The changes to the size of the neighbourhoods and the shift patterns of neighbourhood officers will improve the resilience of the force and ensure neighbourhoods are resourced by neighbourhood officers at core times, seven days a week.”
While policing priorities appear to have remained constant since the merger the focus has changed distinctly away from the parish. Parlaunt Road and Ditton Park Road in Foxborough are being targeted for inconsiderate parking and driving; Parlaunt Road is also the focus of moves to tackle anti-social behaviour along with Blunden Drive in Foxborough, and Moreland Avenue and Drift Way in Colnbrook, drug dealing and usage is being addressed in and around Foxborough’s Longwood Avenue and Blunden Drive, and in The Hawthorns and Pippins Park in Poyle.
The police statistics suggest a change may be needed when the Neighbourhood Action Group meets tonight at the Marriott Hotel, Langley.
Councillors present at Tuesday’s meeting of the Parish Council voted unanimously to extend the £33,000 contract for PCSOs for a further two years, despite promises to open the matter up to public debate. The matter was discussed at the Village Forum which, not being publicised on the parish website or widely promoted, was poorly attended.
It’s not clear whether the parish-funded PCSOs are restricted to attend crimes within the parish or serve the wider policing area as a whole.
Lies, damned lies … and statistics!
But to the crux of the matter:
Has adding Foxborough to the policing area helped to hide real problem areas in the parish or are Thames Valley using a different set of figures to those publicly available? The jury is out on that one and it looks like a bit of both.
While the updated Crime Map website allows more precise areas to be interrogated it lacks meaningful comparison tools.
However, there are big question marks over the data. It seems unlikely, for example, that Foxborough alone saw 194 incidents of anti-social behaviour for the year given it recorded 73 from April to December. And Thames Valley’s figure of 129 burglaries for the enlarged area is questionable when there were 172 alone in Colnbrook with Poyle!
The Crime Mapping website appears to offer some explanation:
Following changes to neighbourhood boundaries there are a number of crime records in the Thames Valley Police area which have not had a specific location reference attached to them and therefore they are not displayed on Police.UK maps. This was due to a technical problem in Thames Valley Police. Efforts are ongoing to correct this as soon as possible.
Nevertheless, while figures may be revised upwards over the coming months, the official figures for the village are disturbing enough as they are.
Superintendent Humphries spoke about crime in Slough at the Parish Council meeting on the 5th February and the measures being taken to combat crime.
Minutes record that Councillors were provided with statistics which he said he had confidence in “because H.M. Inspectorate of Constabulary had placed Thames Valley Police the top of all those in the country, for the way they were handled and compiled“.
No parish statistics have been made available for public consumption since June 2012 after Colnbrook Views pointed out similar inaccuracies. Anybody fancy a Freedom of Information request to get this data into the public domain?
Since then, improvements made to the Crime Mapping site allow members of the public to interrogate the statistics for an area they define themselves.
The improvements made to the site also provide a better insight than before into outcomes - that is, how reported crimes are resolved. Of all the crimes registered between April and December 2012 8% saw a “police outcome” or Court action. We’ll be focusing more on this in the future.
Colnbrook Views users can download a compilation of the figures below, and decide for themselves if the analysis above is correct.
Download the Crime Figures for Colnbrook with Poyle here (Excel).