Improvements in the way crime is recorded have led to a rise in the number of sexual offences and domestic abuse incidents in Horsham in the last year.
A ‘statistical increase’ in crime has been experienced in the Horsham district, chief inspector Howard Hodges said, but he added he is ‘comfortable’ with the rise.
The Horsham district commander told the County Times that changes in how police record offences is behind a numerical increase in crime rate in the current performance year, which began in April 2014.
He said: “While we have a statistical increase, I am comfortable with that. I would rather know what an accurate picture of crime is.
“As it stands we do not have any crime spree. We have got a number of people on bail and I am hopeful they will be brought to justice.”
Of most concern to local officers, CI Hodges said, is the increase of 147 more cases of violent crimes in the district.
He said: “That is obviously significant but there are some underlying reasons why we, as with every other district, have seen an increase.
“Do I think more people are being assaulted on the streets of Horsham? No I don’t. Are we better at recording crime? Yes, I think we are.”
He explained that every incident reported to police is now recorded, disregarding factors such as the clarity of information provided.
A series of indecent exposure cases equated for around half of the increase of 45 sexual offences this year, CI Hodges said.
He said: “We had an excess of 20 linked crimes relating to exposures in the Horsham town area.
“We arrested a number of people and we have one person who remains on bail for those offences.
“What we haven’t got is people being subjected to sexual attack on the streets of Horsham.”
CI Hodges welcomed the reporting of 127 more domestic abuse incidents this year, and said victims feel more comfortable and confident to report these incidents to police.
The area has also seen an increase in theft offences, notably shoplifting, he said, as well as burglary other than dwelling.
However, the number of burglaries to homes has decreased in the current performance year.
CI Hodges said: “We have seen some significant reductions in some types of crime including burglary dwelling we have seen 26 less offences this year compared to last which is fantastic because, to me, that is one of the most impactful offences.”
Challenges facing the force
Recruitment of new PCSOs remains frozen with the size of the force continuing to drop.
CI Hodges said managing the loss of PCSOs, who are becoming responsible for larger geographical regions due to the number of officers in the district falling, is his largest challenge in 2015.
He said: “We have a freeze of PCSO recruitment until at least 2016, and in the last three months we have lost three PCSOs who have been successful in becoming police officers.
“That is great for them but it doesn’t really help us, as every time we lose one we have to shapeshift around those areas.
“We have had to take a mature view about that, looking at crime and anti-social behaviour data, and the geography to work out which areas cluster together.
“I think policing is facing a number of challenges. Horsham is a vast district and that comes with some logistical challenges.”
Public stance on anti-
CI Hodges has urged the public to report anti-social behaviour to police, ‘no matter what it is’.
He said: “If the public feel they can’t go about their business or live without the behaviour of someone else impacting them, it is something that might not be a police matter but somebody can do something about it.
“We identify them early, engage with them and look to divert them before they make the transition from a low level of antisocial behaviour through to criminality.
“The actions of a minority can make a lot of people feel very unsafe.”