June 9, 2016
Top cop reassures Burnham residents over 'misleading' crime stats

The top police officer for Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge has this week reassured residents about 'misleading and alarming' statistics about crime levels in the towns following reports about so-called 'crime hotspots'.

It comes after new crime statistics available online here have been updated to show the new data from May 2015 to April 2016.

The figures show supermarkets are the biggest crime hotspots, with 93 reported crimes in and around Burnham and Highbridge's stores - mainly for shoplifting.

At a quick glance the data seems to suggest that Highbridge's Grange Avenue is a 'crime hotspot' with 56 incidents during the year - however closer analysis finds many of those actually refer to shoplifting incidents at the nearby Asda store. There were 35 reported incidents of shoplifting over the year.

It has also been claimed that Technical Street has the highest levels of crime in Burnham-On-Sea with 16 reported incidents of shoplifting, however closer analysis of the figures reveals 15 of those incidents actually took place at the former Morrisons store nearby - not in the street itself.

The incidents recorded on the crime maps over the past year range form "violent and sexual crimes" to criminal damage, arson, robbery, and drugs.

However, Chief Inspector Lisa Simpson, Local Policing Commander for Somerset West, told this week: "It’s important that our communities understand the facts that sit behind the numbers; statistics alone can be misleading and alarming, and don’t necessarily always reflect the true picture."

"We have seen an increase in the numbers of crimes reported both across the Constabulary and nationally. We believe this is due to a number of factors. Nationally, there has been an improvement in the way crime is recorded, and the police service across the country has seen a rise across all crime types due in part to these improvements."

"For the public’s peace of mind, it is important to note that the classification of ‘sexual offences and violent crime’ includes a whole range of incidents, from low level verbal abuse to Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH). The term can be misleading, as it doesn’t necessarily mean any physical violence has occurred, and the majority of incidents will most likely be low-level public order offences. Likewise, the term ‘sexual assault’ is used to classify crimes ranging from touching over clothing to rape. This isn’t to say that so-called ‘lesser crimes’ are any less distressing for victims, but it is important to understand the make-up of the statistics."

"The figures, in relation to Burnham, cover some high-footfall and busy shopping areas and other particular locations that affect crime figures, such as a busy supermarket, which can concentrate some crime types (shop-lifting). The numbers also clearly highlight a well-known correlation between certain crime types and areas dominated by pubs, bars and clubs. Alcohol sadly often plays a key role in anti-social behaviour and violence."

"Some of the figures relate to particular incidents or locations for anti-social behaviour. Sometimes we see instances where a specific case has generated multiple calls from the public to one location or problem for example an ongoing neighbour dispute. These issues most often are often then subject to a multi-agency resolution plan and are sorted out."

Lisa continued: "The figures also relate not just to particular streets but the surrounding area in the same postcode and again, if there are bars or pubs in the vicinity, we can sometimes see more instances of ASB. However, we work very closely with local licensees, the caravan parks, our partners at the council and Trading Standards to implement effective measures to deal with and prevent ASB. These include Pub Watch, No Drinking Zones, regular licence checks and zero tolerance of ASB on the holiday sites."

"What is encouraging is that we believe that we have seen a rise in reporting within some crime areas that have been significantly underreported in the past such as domestic abuse, violent crime and some sexual offences. A huge amount of work has been done, not just by ourselves but with key support services like The Bridge and our college & university communities, to encourage reporting. We have worked extremely hard to increase the public’s trust and confidence in us, both as a force and as a police service nationally, and I believe we are now seeing a greater willingness to report as a result."

"We have also undertaken work with our partners to educate and raise public awareness in relation to certain crime including positive changes in legislation (for example the recent introduction of legislation in relation to domestic abuse and “coercive and controlling behaviour”)."

"If by educating the public it means we see an increase in reporting and less people suffer in silence as a result, then that is positive news. This means that more victims are receiving the support and protection the need, and potentially we have more opportunities to bring offenders to justice. A rise in reported crime isn’t always bad news."

"Our world is ever-changing and we adapt to respond to emerging issues and public need. Some crime has increased as the social landscape has changed and technology has developed. We have obviously seen an increase in online crime in the last ten years for example, and we undertake training and adapt our workforce to respond accordingly."

Lisa added: "I live in Somerset and I firmly believe we have one of the safest counties in the country. People should be reassured that these figures are comparatively very low in relation to other areas. This doesn’t mean we are complacent; we remain absolutely dedicated to preventing and detecting crime in our community, supporting victims and working together to keep people safe."

"I also believe that we each, as individuals, have a responsibility and a part to play in making our communities safer. You, the public, are our eyes and ears, so please keep talking to us. Keep reporting crime and anti-social behaviour. If you have information that could help us, get in touch."

"Make sure you are also reducing the risk of becoming a victim of crime yourself by taking simple and effective crime prevention measures to protect your homes, cars and property and of course, yourselves. We have to work together. Speak to my officers or visit our website for advice."


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