Inspector Matt Atkinson in attendance to answer questions about crime and disorder in the District.
The Chairman welcomed Inspector Matt Atkinson, of Kent Police to the meeting, who gave an overview of the levels of crime within the District.
Members were provided with an overview of the statistics of comparative data for April to June 2022 and the some rolling year to date data. In comparative year Members were provided with the years, 2019, 2020, 2021 to 2022, due to the pandemic the year 2020 was sometimes to be treated as an anomaly. Data also included a rank for the District’s place out of the 13 Boroughs and Districts in Kent, with 13 being the highest reported cases and one the lowest and in most categories the District had the lowest crime across Kent.
Members attention was brought to some key figures which included victim based crime where figures were down based on the previous three years. Theft reports were increasing but this was viewed as a positive in terms of greater reporting and that new measures, including the re-introduction of Town Centre Constables, made shop staff more confident in reporting incidents and there was also a higher success rate in the number of successful prosecutions for those who commit theft.
A Kent Priority was continuing to advocate for the reduction of Domestic Abuse and Violence against women and girls (VAWAG). All levels of abuse were recorded among the category and there was better accuracy or reporting of these incidents. Hate crime figures were slightly increased but the Inspector was confident this was due to more incidents being reported and more accurate recording.
In response to questions, the Committee was advised the process for reporting anti-social behaviour including reporting to the Community Safety Unit or through 101. The Inspector highlighted the importance of reporting to the Police rather than on social media as this would help create an accurate picture of what was happening. To help combat anti-social behaviour a bid for funding had been made and £18,000 was received for extra youth activities within Swanley.
In regards to shop thefts, Members were advised that the Town Centre Constables were there to support shops preventing commercial crime and shop lifting. Reporting of thefts previously had been irregular and by launching the operation there had seen a good success rate and the designated Officers were able to build relationships with, shops building on the importance of reporting and gathering evidence.
In response to a question Members were advised that the CSU were an incredibly valued partner and the Assistant Chief Constable had been very favourably impressed when he had visited, particularly the working relationship between the Police Officers and the CSU and the work with partners which was very face to face and for many years the relationship with the Council had been incredibly fruitful, and strong.
Inspector Atkinson, advised the number of local officers able to respond to an emergency call on a Friday or Saturday night from the District’s stations. Most response cars would come from the Swanley Police Station but it could also come from Sevenoaks. If a suspect needed to be detained they would be either taken to Tonbridge, Maidstone or Ebbsfleet and depending on availability and the crime committed would have an impact on the which station was used. Numbers were still low with response teams but there was a substantial recruitment process taking place but the training programme was a long course.
In regards to further questions regarding ‘serious offences’ Members were advised that the ‘tag’ covered a wide range of offences and tackling Domestic Abuse was a priority in the Police and the CSU. A Domestic Abuse hub had been set up and this allowed the victims to remain engaged with the Police via phone or telephone link and this allowed communication to take place faster than waiting for a patrol car. If victims of Domestic Abuse felt engaged the offenders were more likely to be caught. The Vulnerable Victim team would always operate at 100% and if this figure dropped, other trained staffed would be moved over to support the team. There were lots of stigma and taboos around Domestic Abuse and VAWAG and by empowering the reporting of this would result in figures going up, but it was firmly believed that the figures going up reflected more victims feeling they were able to come forward and make a report.
Members expressed their thanks to Inspector Matt Atkinson for his attendance and update.