In recent years, the concerted efforts of both the Government and Thames Valley Police have resulted in a significant reduction in crime rates. 1.8 million fewer crimes have been committed since 2010, excluding fraud, and neighbourhood crime has halved in the same period. Here in the Thames Valley, incidents of burglary are down by 36% since 2019 while neighbourhood crime has also fallen by 14%.

Despite this progress, many residents, understandably, remain concerned about crime, particularly anti-social behaviour and rural crime. As representatives deeply engaged in addressing these issues, both nationally and locally, we wanted to outline the efforts and initiatives aimed at combating crime across Bucks.

Anti-Social Behaviour

We know from our interactions with residents across Wycombe and Bucks that anti-social behaviour is a crime that causes acute anxiety to residents. Whether it is elderly people worried about walking down the street late at night or parents who are worried about allowing their children to play in our parks, anti-social behaviour can affect us all in different ways.

Making sure that people feel safe where they live is vital to having a vibrant thriving happy community. There is more to do but measures are being strengthened and introduced nationally and locally to tackle it.

The Government announced the Anti-Social Behaviour Plan, which will implement a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of anti-social behaviour and as part of this recently confirmed a national rollout of funding for hotspot policing to help tackle it.  As a result, £1.6m of funding has been secured for additional hotspot policing patrols to help tackle the issue in the Thames Valley. Alongside this, the Government is trialling an “Immediate Justice” scheme with a view to rolling it out more widely if it is successful. Under the new Immediate Justice scheme, those found committing anti-social behaviour will be made to repair the damage they inflicted on victims and communities, with the aim to foster a sense of responsibility and restitution.

Moreover, we know that the recreational use of nitrous oxide is of growing concern to many in Bucks. Many of us have seen piles of nitrous oxide canisters at the roadside across Bucks. Not only does abuse of these canisters often lead to anti-social behaviour but these, in effect, little steel rollers could cause a major fatal accident on a bicycle or a motorcycle, or possibly in a car. In response, the Government has escalated its efforts, reclassifying nitrous oxide as an illegal Class C substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, signalling a firm commitment to curbing such hazardous behaviours.

Additional Police Officers

The presence of a robust and visible police force is instrumental in instilling confidence and enhancing public safety.

The Government’s ambitious police recruitment drive has resulted in the hiring of over 20,000 additional police officers nationwide, with Thames Valley Police exceeding recruitment targets by a significant margin. Continued commitment to frontline policing in the Thames Valley will also see the funding of an additional 150 officers in 2024/25 across neighbourhood policing; priority crime teams to tackle burglaries, theft and shoplifting as well as rural crime. This means that there are now over 3,500 more officers in England and Wales than the previous peak in 2010 and more officers in Thames Valley Police than ever before.

Notably, the infusion of funds from the Home Office’s Safer Streets initiative has empowered Thames Valley Police and local authorities to implement a diverse range of crime prevention measures. Safer Streets is a Home Office fund that was set up to invest in a range of situational crime prevention measures in local communities. The last two rounds of Safer Streets funding has seen the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner successfully bid for £2.7m for the delivery of crime prevention initiatives which are already benefitting communities across the Thames Valley.

In Slough, High Wycombe and Oxford, £500,000 will support a range of initiatives to tackle violence against women and girls. This includes additional Project Vigilant deployments by Thames Valley Police to identify predatory behaviour in areas near clubs and bars in addition to a new schools-based attitudinal/behaviour change programme to help create safer night-time environments for women.

Knife crime

While Bucks does not experience high levels of knife crime compared to certain areas in the UK, for those it does affect it can have a devastating impact.

Over the last 12 months, there has been a reduction in knife-enabled crime in the Thames Valley by 12% and in Bucks specifically, a reduction of 28%. 

These reductions follow significant work by Thames Valley Police to tackle serious violence and knife crime, focusing on early intervention and prevention to stop young people from being drawn into crime and violence, proactive policing to target hotspot locations and the small number of people who carry and use knives and robust criminal justice processes, through Operation Deter, to deliver swift outcomes and consequences.

The Government has invested over £110 million in 2023-24 to fight knife crime, including investing in 20 violence reduction units, including in the Thames Valley to coordinate local response to tackle the root causes of violence through earlier interventions and prevention, as well as funding to deliver hotspot policing in the most seriously affected areas.

They are also trialling the introduction of Serious Violence Reduction Orders, which gives police increased stop and search powers through a new civil order being piloted in four police forces including in Thames Valley Police.  

Furthermore, the Government has also committed to banning certain types of large knives such as zombie style knives and machetes, giving the police more powers to seize dangerous weapons, creating a new offence of possession of a bladed weapon with an intent to harm, and increasing sentences for those who import, manufacture or sell dangerous weapons to under 18 year-olds. The Government is committed to creating a robust legislative framework geared towards enhancing public safety and fostering a culture of accountability.

Rural Crime

There are certain types of crime that only affect certain areas of the UK. Bucks – given its rural areas – has been affected by rural-specific crimes from traveller encampments to hare coursing.

During the passage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act through Parliament, Ministers amended the legislation to introduce tougher sentencing and improved police powers for hare coursing. These powers include increasing the maximum penalty for trespassing in pursuit of game to an unlimited fine and introducing, for the first time, the possibility of up to six months’ imprisonment. Alongside this, the Government has doubled the funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

Here, Thames Valley Police is making great strides in driving down incidents of rural crime with a 19% decrease across the force area over the past 12 months.  The creation of a dedicated Rural Crime Taskforce, supported by additional funding, has been a step change in ensuring Thames Valley Police has a visible and robust response, which is making a real difference to the safety and security of farms, rural industries and our most isolated communities.

As traveller encampments were causing serious anti-social issues in our area – alongside the trespassing that was being committed – the concerns of Bucks residents were made clear to the former Home Secretary Priti Patel which resulted in a successful campaign for the criminalisation of trespassing in order to stop the Traveller encampments that had often caused issues for our area and areas across the country.

Crime and even the fear of crime can have terrible impacts on our community. No one should feel unsafe in their own neighbourhood. As your representatives, we are committed to listening and raising community concerns about crime and to ensuring that new measures are regularly introduced to address them.

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