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Crime

THE CHANGING STATE OF THE SOUTH WEST 2012

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This section outlines some of the latest key facts and figures relating to crime and criminal activity in the South West, before looking at some of the current policy changes affecting the police force.
WHAT DO WE KNOW?

In 2010/11 the total recorded crime rate in the South West was 62.3 offences per 1,000 population, compared to the England rate of 75.1 and the England and Wales rate of 75.7. This was the lowest rate for any region, just below the East of England.

In 2010/11, there were 325,651 crimes recorded by police forces in the South West. Recorded crime in the South West has decreased by 5% from 2009/10. Crime rates decreased by 4% for England and Wales over the last year. Across police force areas the rate of recorded crime varied between 52 per 1,000 population in Devon and Wales to 74 per 1,000 population in Avon and Somerset. The South West had recorded crime rates (per 1,000 population) lower than the England rates for all offence categories, including violence against the person, sexual offences, burglary and offences against vehicles.

There are notable differences in crime rates between urban and rural areas. About 39% of the South West’s population live in local authorities classified as “predominantly urban”, according to Defra, which is where 54% of all recorded crime in 2010/11 occurred. The rate of recorded crime in “predominantly urban” areas in 2010/11 was 84 per 1,000 population, but 45 per 1,000 population in “predominantly rural” areas.

For all district and unitary authorities in the South West the highest rates of recorded crime were in Bristol (112 offences per 1,000 population), Bournemouth (109 offences per 1,000 population) and Gloucester
(97 offences per 1,000 population).


South West Rates of Crime According to Category of Offence
Figure 9.1: Changes in Recorded Crime Rates per 1,000 Population in the South West by Offence Group 2006/07 to 2010/11

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Source: Home Office Recorded Crime Statistics
The lowest rates of recorded crime were in West Devon (29 offences per 1,000 population), the Isles of Scilly (30 offences per 1,000 population) and Torridge (33 offences per 1,000 population). The number of police officers (full time equivalents) fell by 5.2% in the year from September 2010 to September 2011. This is the third highest percentage fall for any region, after the East and West Midlands. The fall in police officers for all English regions combined was 4.3%.

Figure 9.1 shows the changes in rates (per 1,000 population) of different types of reported crime in the South West since 2006/07. All categories of crime have declined since 2006/07, with the exception of drug offences. It should be noted, however, that police recorded crime for drug offences may be as much a measure of drug policing activity as actual criminal activity. This increase may therefore reflect changes in national and local policing priorities rather than in the incidence of drug use.

Crime Rates in Individual Local Authorities (District/Unitary)
Figure 9.2: Total Recorded Crime in the 12 Months to 30/09/2011, per 1,000 population

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Source: Home Office Recorded Crime (year to 30/9/11)

Figure 9.3: Total Recorded Crime in the South West 2010/11, split into Urban and Rural areas, percentatges

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Source: Home Office Recorded Crime Statistics
At a local authority level, rates of reported crime varied considerably. The highest rates of recorded crime were in Bristol (112 offences per 1,000 population), Bournemouth (109 offences per 1,000 population) and Gloucester (97 offences per 1,000 population).

The lowest rates of recorded crime were in West Devon (29 offences per 1,000 population), the Isles of Scilly (30 offences per 1,000 population) and Torridge (33 offences per 1,000 population).

Individual crime categories largely reflect this distribution. For example the highest rates of violent crime were in Bristol (26 offences per 1,000 population) and Bournemouth (23), while the lowest rates were in the Isles of Scilly (2), East Dorset (4) and West Devon (5).

The British Crime Survey (BCS) comparator offence rate per 1,000 population were also similar, although are generally lower than the total reported crime rates. The lowest BCS rates were 10 per 1,000 population for the Isles of Scilly, 15 for East Dorset and 18 for South Hams and Torridge. The highest BCS rates were 64 per 1,000 for Bristol, 60 for Bournemouth and 53 for Cheltenham.


* British Crime Survey Note: The BCS counts crime experienced by interviewees in the 12 months prior to interview, regardless of whether they have been reported to, or recorded by, the police.




Urban and Rural Crime Rates

In 2010/11, 54% of all recorded crime in the South West occurred in local authority areas which are classified as “predominantly urban” by Defra, despite these areas only containing 39% of the South West’s population. 16% of all crime in the South West was committed in the City of Bristol and a further 6% in Plymouth, meaning that over a fifth of all recorded crime was committed in these two urban areas (see Figure 9.3).

The rate of recorded crime in “predominantly urban” areas in 2010/11 was 84 per 1,000 population, but 45 per 1,000 population in “predominantly rural” areas. The crime rate in the two local authorities (Bath and North East Somerset and Taunton Deane) in the category “significantly rural” between urban and rural, was 63 per 1,000 population.



Public Perception of Crime

According to the BCS 8% of people surveyed in the South West said there was a high level of perceived anti-social behaviour. This is statistically lower than the England figure of 14%. In the South West 19% of people thought that drug use or dealing was a very/fairly big problem in their area, again lower than the England figure of 25%. There is a similar picture for those who perceive drunk or rowdy behaviour to be a very/fairly big problem in their area, with the figure for the South West (20%) being statistically lower than the England figure (24%). In the South West 65% of BCS respondents thought the police do an excellent/good job, compared to 59% for England.


Police Force Numbers

According to the Home Office, Police Force numbers (full time equivalent employment) fell in all regions from September 2010 to September 2011. The fall in the South West was 5.2%, the third highest decrease for any region, after the East and West Midlands. The overall decrease for England was 4.3%. Within the South West the highest fall in numbers was for the Devon and Cornwall Police force (6.1%), while the lowest decrease was for Dorset (3.9%)
WHAT'S THE POLICY CONTEXT? 
The Coalition Government Crime Policies

The Coalition Government’s policy plans are detailed in the document ‘The Coalition: Our Programme for Government’.

Under section 6, Crime and Policing, the following points are of interest from a data or local perspective:

  • We will oblige the police to publish detailed local crime data statistics every month, so the public can get proper information about crime in their neighbourhoods and hold the police to account for their performance.
  • We will require the police forces to hold regular ‘beat meetings’ so that residents can hold them to account.
  • We will make hospitals share non-confidential information with the police so they know where gun and knife crime is happening and can target stop-and-search in gun and knife hot spots.

With respect to the localism and transparency agenda, the Interactive Crime Map was launched on 1 February 2011 at www.police.uk and shows detailed crime data, to street level, as well as information on local policing teams and beat meetings.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Police Commissioner Elections

On 15 November 2012 there will be elections for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) for the 41 Police Forces outside of Greater London.

These elections are as a result of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 and will result in newly elected Commissioners for the 5 Police Forces across the South West (Devon and Cornwall Police, Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Dorset Police, Gloucestershire Constabulary and Wiltshire Police).

According to the Home Office website, PCCs will “aim to cut crime and deliver an effective and efficient police service within their force area”. They will not be expected to “run the police”; the role of the PCC is to be “the voice of the people and hold the Police to account”.

More information on the roles and responsibilities of PCCs is available from the Home Office website.


2012 Olympics

The London Olympics 2012 will have a major impact on police forces across the country.

A ministerial statement to Parliament on 13 December 2010 outlined spending plans. A total of £600m will be made available for Olympic safety and security, if necessary. However, the government is confident it can deliver the programme for £475m.

Within the South West, Weymouth and Portland are hosting the sailing and paralympic sailing, comprising a total of 13 events.

In addition to the policing of these events, there is the possible redeployment of police officers from the South West to London and South East as part of the overall Olympic security plans.

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