Community safety survey suggests 23% of Reading believes the town is a high crime area

Reading Borough Council (RBC) conducted a community safety survey last year which received 989 responses. 975 of the estimated 162,000 people living in Reading borough participated. Of the respondents, 23% thought that the crime level in Reading was high, and littering was the most commonly identified priority anti-social issue.

Perception of crime

The council’s community safety survey found that:

  • 23% of respondents felt that the level of crime in Reading is high or very high,
  • 34% said crime had increased over the last two years,
  • 16% had been a victim of crime in the last 12 months, with higher levels seen in Battle and Abbey,
  • 38% felt unsafe at night,
  • 6%  felt unsafe during the day,
  • 79% of respondents did not belong to a Neighbourhood Watch.

The council added that:

Drugs, burglaries, street lighting, groups hanging around and drunken behaviour make people feel unsafe but there were some very positive aspects of communities listed, such as good transport links, good shops and restaurants, strong and diverse communities, green space and good neighbours.

In their analysis of crime in England and Wales up to December 2017, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) summarised the national picture:

While crime has fallen over the long-term, the short-term picture is more stable with most types of crime staying at similar levels to 2016. It is too early to say whether this indicates a change to the overall trend or simply a pause, which has happened before. The exceptions to this stable picture are rises in some types of theft and in lower-volume but higher-harm types of violence, and a fall in the high-volume offence of computer misuse.

Thames Valley Police publish recorded crime statistics for Reading. They recorded:

  • 13,622 crimes (excluding fraud) from April 2015 until March 2016,
  • 14,679 from April 2016 until March 2017 and
  • 15,841 from April 2017 until March 2018.

This means a 7.9% increase in annual recorded crime in Reading from March 2017 to March 2018, although this doesn’t mean all crime types changed by the same amount; recorded robberies of business properties went up by 167% and recorded arson went down by 22%, for example.

The ONS warns about interpreting police recorded crime data:

An increase in the number of crimes recorded by the police does not necessarily mean the level of crime has increased.

They only cover crimes that come to the attention of the police and can be affected by changes in policing activity and recording practice and by willingness of victims to report.

The ONS also provides the national view on the likelihood of being a victim of crime:

Around 4 in 10 adults were estimated to have been a victim of crime in 1995 (before the survey included fraud and computer misuse in its coverage).

In the year ending December 2017, just over 1 in 10 adults were a victim of crimes comparable with those measured in the 1995 survey.

Including fraud and computer misuse, 2 in 10 adults were a victim of crime in the year ending December 2017.

16% of respondents to the Reading community safety survey said they had been a victim of crime in the previous year; this seems broadly in line with the national picture (which suggests a 20% rate). As a caveat, the Reading community safety survey was not a random sampling, but a self-selecting group who may have got involved because of personal experiences.

Priorities

The panel were asked to highlight the three biggest anti-social problems in their area, in priority order.

Ward Teenagers hanging around Rubbish and litter Vandalism and grafitti Drug use or dealing Public drunkness and rowdiness
Abbey 3 1 2
Battle 2 1 3
Caversham 1 3 2
Church 3 1 2
Katesgrove 1 2 3
Kentwood 3 1 2
Mapledurham 1 3 2
Minster 2 1 3
Norcot 1 2 3
Park 1 2 3
Peppard 1 2 3
Redlands 2 3 1
Southcote 3 2 1
Thames 3 1 2
Tilehurst 2 1 3 2
Whitley 2 1 3 3

‘Loud parties / noisy neighbours’ and ‘abandoned or burnt out cars’ were also categories that the panel could have chosen, but neither came in the top three problems for any ward.

‘Rubbish and litter’ was the most common number one concern, in 10 out of 16 wards. Drug use and dealing was the second most common number one concern, in Abbey and Battle wards (the town centre) and Minster ward. Redlands ward was the only ward where public drunkenness and rowdiness was the top concern.

The survey found that:

  • 31% of respondents felt antisocial behaviour had increased in Reading borough,
  • 42% suggested that parents were not taking responsibility for their children,
  • 76% of respondents felt that their local area was a place where people from different backgrounds got on well together.

The council decided the local issues they would consider for action were:

Area Priority 1 Priority 2 Priority 3
Oxford Road drug dealing and use flytipping drunken behaviour
West Reading motorbike and vehicle nuisance and speeding drug dealing and use burglary
Southcote motorbike and vehicle nuisance speeding groups hanging around
Minster drug dealing and use flytipping buglary and speeding
North Reading speeding groups hanging around burglary
Katesgrove drug dealing and use flytipping and litter groups hanging around
Redlands and University speeding flytipping burglary and rough sleeping
South Reading motorbike and vehicle nuisance and speeding drug dealing and use speeding
East Reading flytipping and litter drug dealing and use speeding

RBC neighbourhood initiatives manager Chris Bloomfield said that the regions in this table that are not ward names follow the more informal boundaries of the safer neighbourhood forums:

  • ‘north Reading’ includes all of Reading borough north of the Thames,
  • west Reading is Norcot, Kentwood and Tilehurst wards,
  • Oxford Road includes Battle and western Abbey wards,
  • south Reading is Whitley, Church and the Hexham road estate in Redlands ward,
  • ‘east Reading’ is Park ward and eastern Abbey ward.

We asked Chris Bloomfield why the priorities identified by the community survey didn’t seem to be reflected in the local issues the council would consider for action. He said:

The table ‘considered for action’ is based on the very first question [in the community survey] which allows respondents a wide range of topics to choose as their top three priorities for their local area. I believe there were something like 30 different options to choose from. The table listing litter, etc purely focuses on antisocial behaviour (ASB) issues only and has always been something we look at additionally in order to feedback to our ASB team.

Respondents

The council asked residents to respond to an online survey in late 2017. They also set up a citizens panel who are invited to complete surveys about four times a year on subjects such as council spending and services.

Ward Citizen’s panel Community safety survey Total As % of population
Abbey 34 76 110 0.81
Battle 32 29 61 0.52
Caversham 40 27 67 0.69
Church 31 45 76 0.64
Katesgrove 26 17 43 0.39
Kentwood 38 14 52 0.53
Mapledurham 19 9 28 0.93
Minster 36 18 54 0.51
Norcot 32 10 42 0.39
Park 45 30 75 0.68
Peppard 54 39 93 0.98
Redlands 23 18 41 0.4
Southcote 29 38 67 0.75
Thames 51 29 80 0.82
Tilehurst 27 14 41 0.45
Whitley 34 11 45 0.37
Borough Total 551 424 975 0.6
Out of borough 0 14 14 n/a
Total 551 438 989 n/a

0.6% of the total estimated population [note 1] in Reading borough responded to the survey. Any ward with a higher figure was over-represented in the survey, and any figure lower was under-represented. Uncoloured figures are probaby too close to the average to be significant. Peppard, Mapledurham, Thames and Abbey wards were the most over-represented whilst Whitley, Katesgrove, Norcot and Redlands were the most under-represented.

RBC neighbourhood initiatives manager Chris Bloomfield said:

We never expect large numbers to respond and therefore cannot ever expect a true representation of the Borough. Feedback from the surveys is purely a sampling to support what we may already know about reported crime and perceived crime and to provide a platform for local residents to get involved in areas that concern them, giving a voice to those who wish to be heard.

Notes

[1] The population figures come from the ONS mid-2016 population estimates for wards in England and Wales.


Links
  1. Make Your Voice Heard with the Reading Community Safety Survey
  2. Community Safety Survey results
  3. Crime in England and Wales: year ending December 2017  (ONS)
  4. Crime survey of England and Wales
  5. Thames Valley Police performance figures for Reading
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