by Iain Roberts on 28 July, 2015
Monday night saw a well-attended community meeting about crime, with local councillors and residents joined by Inspector Neil Cook from the Stockport West police.
The meeting was organised by the Lib Dem team and hosted by Cheadle Muslim Association, who even laid on tea and biscuits. It followed concerns being raised, particularly on the local Facebook groups, about crime levels.
Three years ago someone could have been trying car doors at the end of my street and I’d probably never have known about it, but now if it happens on the other side of Cheadle I know within hours.
Figuring out whether crime has really gone up, or whether I just know about more crimes thanks to social media isn’t easy – and that’s something I hoped the meeting would help with.
Overall, Stockport West is the 3rd safest of the 28 Police Neighbourhood Areas in Greater Manchester and reported crime has risen by 4% (though that’s partly due to changes in recording).
Over the last year there’s actually been a 12% fall in reported car crime in our area (though that could be fewer people reporting it – we don’t know for sure). Although hi-tech vehicle crimes get more news, Inspector Cook told us that it’s the simple methods being used locally. There are three identified offenders (one has been arrested and charged recently) and they will simply go to a road and try every car door handle in the street until they find one that’s open.
Breaking a window to steal a car is rarer (because the police can get forensics from the broken glass). Some car thefts use the “hook and cane” method where the criminal hooks car keys left near an open window or a door with a letterbox in the house.
Between a quarter and three-quarters of all car crimes happen when the car is left unlocked.
The advice on car crime is:
Police figures show that reported burglaries have fallen by 6% in the last year but it’s still a big issue (and even if it is falling, that’s no consolation if you’re burgled).
Neighbourhood Watch works, says Inspector Cook. Not so much the signs, but simply people being more aware and looking out for each other. If you’re a member of an active Neighbourhood Watch, you are more than 30% less likely to be burgled than if you’re not – that’s a big difference. You can find out if there’s already a local Neighbourhood Watch, or sign up to form your own, here.
All the normal, sensible advice still holds: it’s the simple things. Close windows and lock doors at night or when you’re out. Leave a light on at night. Lock side gates. Don’t leave garden tools lying around. Vibration alarms on windows are cheap and easy to fit.
We’ve all heard tales of chalk marks being used to identify houses to rob. Inspector Cook says that’s very rare in his experience. One thing he’s seen in Bramhall recently is thieves putting a stone on a wheel of every car along a road. If the stone is still there a few days later, the thieves can be confident the family is away. If you spot this, report it to the police (and perhaps knock the stones off!).
Bobbies on the beat
Most of us have got the feeling that there aren’t so many bobbies on the beat as there used to be – and we’re right. In Stockport West there are 14 beats to cover. To have one PCSO on duty per beat for each shift (days and lates) would require 56 PCSOs (and that’s before time off and leave). In fact, Inspector Cook has just 15 PCSOs to cover not just patrols but also community events and surgeries. All the evidence, Inspector Cook told us, was that although patrols help us feel safer, they don’t actually stop or solve crimes – so when deciding where to put stretched resources, there’s a balance to be struck. At any one time there are probably no more than eight officers covering the Stockport West area, and that includes patrols, community work and crime investigations.
It’s a similar story with night cover. Night operations can be run, but police working nights can’t progress with investigations to solve crimes or cover the day shifts.
If you phone the police about a crime or suspected crime and they don’t attend, it’s probably because there’s something more serious they’re going to and they don’t have the staffing to do both.
Working with the community
The Police have always relied on the public to help prevent and solve crimes, and today that’s true more than ever with budgets being stretched (and set to be cut a lot further, as George Osborne announced last week). It’s why Neighbourhood Watch works well and why I think the Facebook groups and social media can do a lot of good, if we can figure out how to best use them.
Across Stockport, people say they are very likely to report a crime they’ve witnessed (94-100%) and to report suspicious activity.
There’s one odd figure though. When asked whether they would work with the police to solve problems, people in most areas overwhelmingly said yes. In Gatley the figure was 97%, Heald Green 96% and Cheadle Hulme 93%. In Cheadle, for some reason, the number was much lower – just 54%. We don’t know why that number is so much lower than elsewhere (the next lowest is Brinnington with 64%). We don’t know whether it’s a real issue with working with police, or some problem with the data that doesn’t reflect reality.
Whether the figure is real or not, it reminds us that the Police have never been able to do it on their own and they can’t now. They rely on the public to spot suspicious behaviour, report crimes, look out for our neighbours, identify suspects, give evidence and take sensible measures to secure our property – we all need to do our bit.8 Comments