Closed circuit TV detects more offences

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Indy Politics

The people of Burton upon Trent may curse the advent of closed-circuit television in their town. The electronic eyes have captured more crime than was ever noticed before and have helped to push the area to the top of the league for small semi-rural districts.

The people of Burton upon Trent may curse the advent of closed-circuit television in their town. The electronic eyes have captured more crime than was ever noticed before and have helped to push the area to the top of the league for small semi-rural districts.

The irony is not lost on John White, the assistant chief executive of East Staffordshire Borough Council. The council had been proud that it pressed ahead with its own CCTV scheme without any help from the Home Office.

However, the statistics suggest that nearly 16 out of every 1,000 of the area's 103,000 residents endured a violent crime last year. This is roughly double the rate for similar areas, mainly due to young men boozing at the weekend in Burton and Uttoxeter town centres.

"Previously, these young men might have sorted their problems out and, if you like, shaken hands afterwards, and left it at that," Mr White said. "They're now being picked up by the CCTV team and being both noted and arrested."

Sexual offences are also high, at 1 per 1,000 people. In addition, Burton, dominated by its breweries, JCB headquarters and Pirelli tyres plant, has a high rate of domestic violence.

East Staffordshire's robbery and burglary rates are also higher than those of similar districts, at 1.1 and 5.4 per 1,000 respectively, but are falling thanks to crime prevention partnerships, which have seen the employment of a full-time Neighbourhood Watch officer.

Mr White also fears that East Staffordshire suffers from too much honesty. "We believe Staffordshire police have been recording the figures faithfully and honestly. If other areas are getting significantly lower figures, there may well be a degree of 'pragmatism' in the way that they're recording them," he said.

Mendip, a small borough in Somerset spanning the market towns of Shepton Mallet, Wells, Street and Glastonbury, has its own problems with statistics. The raw data suggests it is a moderately safe area to live, with few sexual offences (at 0.2 per 1,000) and below average violence figures (at 5.9 per 10,000).

But according to Jenny Davies, a co-ordinator of the local crime reduction partnership, Mendip is a great deal safer than this. Its robbery and car theft figures leap up to 1.1 per 1,000 and 10.3 per 1,000, thanks to one three-day event: the Glastonbury pop festival.

Over about five days in mid-June, the festival more than doubles Mendip's 99,200 population. The petty thefts and robberies on site inflate the local crime figures. The council's analysis shows that if festival-related crimes are excluded, Mendip has the fifth lowest figures for robbery in England and Wales. Add them in, and it slumps to 37th. "For one week of the year, everything is turned on its head," Ms Davies said.

The area does, she admits, have difficulties with town centre drinking and thefts from cars. However, a conference on youth rowdiness in Wells town centre seems to have improved the situation. "Our feeling now is that things in Wells are getting better," Ms Davies said.

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