Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Police to provide detailed figures on rape and sexual assault levels in Brighton

Sussex Police has agreed to provide details of the numbers of rape and serious sexual offences which happen in the city - and, crucially, how often sexual offences lead to a conviction.

Every month the council's Community Safety Forum meets at Hove Town Hall to give councillors and representatives of communities around the city a chance to discuss recent crime figures and trends, and to receive reports and updates on the work of the council's community safety team, and the increasing amount of 'partnership' work between the police and the council.

Yesterday's meeting, for example, considered council support for the city's network of Local Action Teams, the recommendations of an investigation into older people and community safety (headline: older people in Brighton suffer less crime but have a deeper fear of crime than average).

Latest figures presented to the forum suggests that total crime is going down very slightly, although, worryingly incidents of burglary are on the rise. We heard how the police's focus on neighbourhood policing was delivering results - I only hope that forthcoming deep Government cuts (whoever wins the next election the police can expect to have their budget slashed) don't undermine all this good work.

But wherever future cuts in the police should fall, I'm delighted the police have agreed to provide specific figures on rape and sexual assault in the city.

As I've said here before, the figures are absolutely terrifying. According to the Home Office, in the UK more than five per cent of women and one in 200 men is raped at some point in the lives. More than one in five women and one in ten men are likely to fall victim to a serious sexual assault.

Specific figures for Brighton aren't available in the same way, but locally it's thought to be even worse.

Sussex Police are putting more resources than ever into bringing these figures down, but with sexual crimes often being the hardest to talk about reporting rates are low.

Just last week Brighton and Hove Council unanimously agreed my request to investigate whether the relatively poor provision of services for victims of rape and serious sexual assault contributed to a low reporting - and therefore conviction - rate here in Brighton.

And by supplying the figures on reported incidents, arrests, and conviction directly to the council, the police will be making the investigation a little easier, and enable both the council and community groups to act promptly on any sudden rises or falls in rape and sexual assault rates.

As has been said, one of the best weapons a community has in the fight against crime is precise, local information about where and when crimes are happening.

I hope the combined efforts of Brighton and Hove Council and Sussex Police will improve outcomes for the victims of sexual offence.

Other police news just in: according to The Argus personnel bosses have decided not to renew Sussex Police's Investors In People accreditation to save some cash. The award is a bit clunky - and accreditation is a bit of a cumbersome and expensive process, but I can't help thinking benefits to staff should be at the end of the queue when the cuts axe falls.

Last week members of Sussex Police Authority were told minor changes had been made to the police pension scheme without even hearing from s representative of the Police Federation or Unison, the largest union representing police staff. Is it any wonder that Sussex Police is failing to meet its own targets on diversifying the workforce by employing more women and people from ethnic minority backgrounds. Is it any wonder?

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