Sharp increases in crime and anti-social behaviour in Uckfield
Sussex Police criticised for lack of officers on the streets
‘One group of youngsters appears to be behind much of the trouble’
Crime in Uckfield and across the whole of Wealden is on the up and the perpetrators are getting bolder because the police are not on patrol to stop the trouble.
The criticism of Sussex Police came from the Wealden district councillor for Uckfield Central, Cllr Claire Dowling, Conservative.
Her remarks were made at last night’s (January 15) meeting of Uckfield Town Council and are all the more stinging because of the posts she holds on the district council.
Cllr Dowling is the Deputy Leader of Wealden and the portfolio holder for public health and community safety.
Uckfield Town Mayor, Cllr Louise Eastwood, Trust Independent, Uckfield North, said at the same meeting that crime was up because there were no street patrols or PCSOs to be seen.
After a lengthy debate, the town council agreed to ask police district commander for the area, temporary chief inspector Anita Turner, to attend a meeting of the full council for a discussion on crime.
The town council meeting opened with Ridgewood resident, Peter Selby, making a statement from the public gallery.
He referred to the attack on the defibrillator machine which is secured to the village hall and damage to the lavatory for disabled people.
Older people were upset by late-night noise, he said, and items had been stolen from front gardens.
Town clerk, Holly Goring, said she was fully aware of the issues in Ridgewood and other places in the town.
The council-owned Civic Centre had suffered criminal damage.
She had attended a meeting last week and given a very long log of events she was personally aware of, noting there could be others.
“Sometimes we all report issues via 101 (the phone number to contact the police) and we are coming from different areas of the town.
“Sometimes it is very difficult for officers to piece all that together.
“It does appear there are a group of individuals that are creating most of these problems.
“They (Sussex Police) are actually working with them.
“Ok, it might not be to the speed we want things to happen but there is very much action taking place.
“What I am trying to do is to get down to the nitty gritty and get some reassurance for the town about what action is taking place; what agencies are involved; what multi-agency teams or groups may be working around these individuals.
“This behaviour is not acceptable. It is not something I have seen in Uckfield until recently. It is a real shame.
“Uckfield is a beautiful town. People have a lot of pride in their gardens and property.
“It was awful to see the defibrillator thrown on the ground like that but luckily it was in a good state and able to be reinstated.
“We are fully aware,” she assured Mr Selby.
“What I am trying to get down to, and it is probably an issue of confidentiality, is actually what is happening with these individuals.
“What are the timescales involved and what will happen.”
Later in the meeting, Cllr Claire Dowling, in giving a report on Wealden District Council activities returned to the theme of crime and disorder.
She said there was an example of a person’s car being ‘keyed’ (paintwork scratched), mirrors damaged and then an attempted flat break-in. A funeral directors had also been attacked, along with town council premises.
She said they managed to get the police out and understood some arrests were made.
‘We are not alone’
“Can I say, and this is not meant to make it any easier for Uckfield, but we are not alone, she said.
At Crowborough a children’s playground had been targeted and it was left if in a very “difficult” state.
In one incident a child could have been seriously injured because of the damage.
Cllr Dowling said that in her community safety role at Wealden she had received the Sussex Police crime report for October to September.
“Over the last year, as we all know, crime has been on the increase and they keep saying Wealden is a low crime area.
“It might well be, but crime is on the increase.
“You can’t keep saying that to residents.
“In the last quarter the increase was 25.8 per cent.
Thefts from vehicles
“If you look at the individual stats, you are talking about two or three here, two or three there, but that is not the point. It is increasing,” she said.
There had also been a spate of theft from vehicles.
“Crime is definitely on the increase in Wealden and they are getting bolder because there is no-one around that is being seen to stop it or prevent it.”
The town council moved on to discuss the idea of employing a community warden to try and encourage “behaviour change” over dog fouling, littering and possibly parking enforcement but quickly returned to the theme of policing.
Cllr Chris Macve, Trust Independent, Uckfield North, referred to a reference in a report to councillors which said Sussex Police said on its website that its new policing model:
“Holds onto areas of policing which are much valued and transformed others to address the changing nature of crime and new crime types and threats.”
Cllr Macve commented: “Surely, the much valued areas of policing were when we had police in the town. We don’t now.
“How they can put that on their website, I fail to understand.”
Cllr Paul Meakin, Liberal Democrat, Uckfield Central, said the police and crime commissioner, Katy Bourne, planned to increase the council tax charge in April for Sussex Police by £12 per year.
He said people were paying a lot of money but not getting very much in return.
Town Mayor, Cllr Eastwood, said her biggest concern was the crime rate, which had increased.
“I believe it will continue to increase because we don’t have any police on the streets, like we used to do, or PCSOs.
“It is quite concerning because we did say when it was decided to remove them (PCSOs) off the street that people were concerned that without that police presence crime would go up.
“We have actually proved that was right. It has gone up.
“We want to see more of a police presence.
“We had a £5 tax increase last year for the police. We have another £12 increase this year on our tax for the police.
What are we getting?
“I think it is about time instead of just taking the residents’ money they started giving us something back into the community.
“Yes, it is OK fighting cyber crime and everything else but unfortunately it is not cyber crime that is increasing, it is actually people out causing criminal damage to people’s properties and I am very concerned about this.”
She said the council should ask what people are going to get for the tax increase.
“Are we going to be seeing any more police officers on the beat? Are they going to be turning up in a timely manner when an incident has been reported?”
Cllr Meakin said he supported what the mayor had said and wanted to know what Sussex Police had done with the extra armed offices which last year’s council tax rise paid for.
“We gave you this money? What have we got for it? I have not seen any response,” he said.
“We are going to pay this additional money. What are we going to see practically on our doorsteps, on our streets? That’s the important thing.
“The government has given this carte blanche to overcharge us again and I just worry, money, money and we get nothing back for it. I think we should raise it as a serious issue.”
Cllr Ian Smith, Independent, Ridgewood, said he agreed with the sentiments of the debate but said people should know the actual numbers when referring to a 25 per cent increase.
‘Eye on trouble’
He added: “You have to say, 25 per cent on what.”
Cllr Smith said when the PCSOs were around in town you “felt someone had an eye on any trouble”.
“It worked a treat. Why the heck that went, I just don’t know,” he said.
Cllr Diane Ward, Trust Independent, Uckfield Central, said a police commander had attended a meeting of the Wealden District Association of Local Councils and “categorically told us, ‘we feel safe’.”
Cllr Ward added: “I said, no we’re not.”
At the end of there debate, it was agreed to tell Sussex Police of the council’s concerns, as outlined in the debate, and invite TCI Anita Turner to a meeting.
It was also agreed to further investigate the idea of a community warden, especially to discover what powers such a person would have.
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