Issue 35— May 1996
Fighting back against crime.
Jericho residents are becoming increasingly concerned about the levels of crime - particularly burglaries and car crimes, which over the last year or so, seem to have increased significantly.
Police crime figures say that in the first three months of this year there were 30 reported burglaries. But some local residents believe the real rates may be much higher.
Two of our more determined citizens organized a petition which they circulated in Jericho and Walton Manor early in March. They collected 574 names and found that, of these, 274 had been victims of some kind of crime - some up to six times. "We started the petition", said one of the organizers, "because we were angry at what was happening. I have lived here 17 years and it has been a peaceful area, pretty much crime free. The problems seem to have started around the middle of last year. Apart from the burglaries, three people have been mugged. But we didn't just want to use the petition as a means of protest, but also to collect information. We had great support from all the shopkeepers and the pub landlords - in fact only two of those we went to had not been burgled themselves."
The rise in burglaries and street crime was confirmed by Lucys, which is one of Jericho's major landlords. According to Property Director Tom Griffin, "There have always been one or two incidents," he says, "but in the last year it has become worse and worse. We are now having one or two burglaries a week reported to us - in addition to people breaking into or stealing cars."
A further problem is that for the past three months Jericho and surrounding areas have not had a community policeman. PC O'Donovan suffered a serious knee injury from which he is now recovering. At present he is working on office duties but should, hopefully, be back soon. Because of the cutbacks in funding for the police it has not been possible to offer a temporary replacement.
However, local residents may have been pleasantly surprised to see quite a few police officers walking around Jericho recently - even two at a time. According to Sergeant Bob Massingham of the Community Beat Team, this operation will take place on a number of days in the near future. "I have got together a special team of 12 community officers. The purpose of these patrols is to have a very high profile. Basically we are trying to target burglars."
The offenders seem to fall into two categories. The first are local young people. Some are engaged in wanton vandalism, breaking car windows, or just snapping off wing mirrors. But they are also committing burglaries. Some residents claim that there are children, as young as 12 years old, who are being schooled in crime by those slightly older. Others are professional criminals who come from outside the Jericho area. Most of the burglaries take place in the day time.
There seems no likelihood that in the future the police will have many more resources to tackle the problem. As one of the petition organizers says: "I think it has to come down to community policing. People should watch out for each others' backs and not just their own". The petition itself, she argues, is evidence that the community is angry about what is going on. Indeed while the petition was circulating she believes that the levels of vandalism by local young people dropped noticeably. While individuals might be nervous about taking action, they are much more likely to report anything suspicious if they feel that other people will be doing the same sort of thing and that they are not alone.
One of the most positive options would be many more Neighbourhood Watch schemes. Sergeant Massingham has reported on the likely introduction of a new computer system called Ringmaster which would allow the Council administrators of the scheme to maintain close and rapid contact with local organizers. If you would like to know more about Neighbourhood Watch, call St. Aldates Police Station on 266000.