The human cost behind January’s crime statistics did not get much coverage – but communities are feeling the devastating effects, writes Ashley Dalton
The Office for National Statistics’ latest crime figures, released in January, make for grim reading.
The figures show that violent crime recorded by the police in England and Wales rose by 19 per cent in the year to September 2018. That includes a 14 per cent increase in homicides – the highest total for murder and manslaughter in more than a decade – and an eight per cent increase in the number of offences involving knives and sharp instruments. The number of admissions to hospital in England following assaults involving a sharp instrument increased by 15 per cent.
The human cost behind these crimes is devastating. Those directly involved face life-altering injuries, trauma or even death. Within the wider community, when an incident involving a knife attack, or a violent assault hits the headlines, it creates a climate of fear that affects everyone. Safety is paramount to a community’s emotional and economic wellbeing, and it is the job of government to lead on this.
But our communities are the real experts when it comes to the importance of combatting crime. They do not need statistical bulletins to tell them any of this; they already feel unsafe in our public spaces. They do not need us to tell them there were 20,000 fewer police officers employed in 2018 than in 2010; they have already noticed the lack of police on our streets and know that, when they call 999, they could face a wait of hours or even days before officers are available to help. People have not had enough of experts, they have had enough of experts telling them what they already know – and not doing anything about it.
In my constituency, people are keen to come forward and talk with police, councillors and other community leaders about the impact of violent crime on their lives. Fears over safety and in particular about the rise in knife crime were brought to a head last year by the murder of 19-year-old Fabian Kacica in Southend town centre in May. Our residents feel that Mr Kacica’s tragic death could have been prevented with a stronger police presence.
At the very least, they deserve to be heard.
Local residents are not disinterested but disenfranchised, and until we are willing to listen to their perspective in the discussion about how we make communities safer, nothing will change.
Here in Southend a community-led campaign, Safe Southend, calls for funding for more police in our town. Hundreds of people have already signed a petition promoted by the campaign. The campaign highlights the willingness of local people to engage with decision-making about community safety. Our communities have strong and valid concerns about crime and it is our job to facilitate their engagement, listen to their experiences and work alongside them to drive change.
Taking part in residents association events, organising roundtables with community leaders, and supporting grassroots campaigns are all ways we can achieve this.
For Labour activists, candidates and representatives, the time has come to step back from making speeches, take a seat at the table, and listen to local people.
Ashley Dalton is the Labour candidate for Rochford and Southend East. She tweets @AshleyDaltonRSE
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