CITIES across the UK fall prey to crime each night as criminals take advantage of nightfall to terrorise innocent communities shaken with fear.
Southampton Locals no longer feel safe in their own homes, the latest crime statistics on Police.UK establish they are right to feel this way. The data shows that Southampton residents are 20% more likely to be a victim of crime compared to similar cities in the UK such as Portsmouth.
You can sense the fear in the people. Online community forums filled with panic over reports of burglaries, anti-social behaviour and citizens held up at gunpoint. Residents are locking sheds, installing light-triggered motion sensors, and having the police dialled at the ready.
In the SO19 postcode area of Southampton covering Thornhill, Itchen, Sholing, and Woolston. The community is taking a stand, creating the SO19 Neighbourhood watch to combat the crime crisis. Nightly and early morning patrols to ward off potential criminals and reporting anything witnessed to the police.
Citizen patrollers protect themselves through group walks, reporting not intervening, and remaining anonymous. “The reason why we started it, the main reason was everyone has been affected by some sort of crime.” Says one of the founders of the SO19 Neighbourhood watch.
The glooming yellow light from lampposts lining the streets barely denting the surrounding pitch-black night, as small groups of patrolling citizens survey the roads and parks, for suspicious activity. Small walks beginning at nightfall and as winter draws near eight pm is as dark as night. The biggest concern for the patrollers? “Weapons” the Founder explained: “I think the weapons now… it’s a worry, we’ve all got kids, they’ve got to grow up on these estates.”
Over 40% of crime in the SO19 area is violent crimes with over one-thousand-two-hundred and sixty-seven reported crimes in this category between November last year and October this year. In comparison to burglaries with only two-hundred and thirty-five total reported crimes.
“What we’ve achieved I think brought the community a bit closer together in terms of people now find it easier to communicate and tell the police when stuffs happening.” The founder made clear, referencing the SO19 Neighbourhood watch Facebook page with ongoing events such as kid patrols and daily reminder posts on locking your car or reporting a crime to 101.
“My first meeting with the police was about a month ago and they were like we’re not getting reported these crimes so to think what we’ve been doing this past month is making a difference… the fact we’re getting people to actually call the police now.”
“We’ve had issues on how some people portray us. As vigilantes” The Neighbourhood watch is determined to step away from this depiction. “their (the police) happy with what we’re doing. They’ve given us a few more tips and they’ve taken a lot of information from us. It’s really positive.”
PM, Boris Johnson has pledged to put 20,000 new police officers across the UK. This pledge would undo the reduction in police numbers since the Conservatives came to power. Between March 2010 and March 2018, the police in England and Wales lost twenty-one thousand-seven-hundred and thirty-two officers according to Home Office figures.
Southampton Itchen conservative candidate and previously elected MP, Royston Smith spoke on the matter at a hustings event on the 28th: “we need more police on the streets now.” Going onto justify the reductions in police numbers as a response to lower crime statistics and clarifying that police are needed now as the number of violent crimes across the country is on the rise.
Southampton Itchen labour candidate, Simon Letts argued: “twenty thousand is a slogan on every piece of conservative literature. You’ve (conservative party) got on rid of twenty thousand experienced officers and going to replace them with brand new people with no training or experience and recruiting officers will be impossible in the short term.”
Southampton residents are frustrated at the failure of the police to act on the rising crime epidemic. Councillor Christopher Hammond spoke on the matter of the number of officers in Southampton in a recent council meeting. Angry at local police and the crime commissioner’s failure to respond to the request made by the councillor for more police officers.
The lack of officers and the rising crime rates has created a demand for more police action, but the unknown capabilities of the future twenty-thousand police officers pledged by the current government leaves many people across the country wondering what next.