It is clear that all is not well in the pleasant village of Whalley. The trashing of one of the flower displays outside Whalley Railway Station maintained by Whalley in Bloom, More Anti-Social Behaviour on the Sands by a Gang of Youths including the taking and peddling of drugs, the deliberate setting fire to chairs in the Stable Block on Back King Street which resulted in the Fire Brigade being called and having to spend an hour and a half dampening down a potentially incendiary incident which could have resulted in a major fire and the jostling by a gang of youths of Whalley Lions Member Peter Duckworth after he caught them up to no good at the exact same location are all examples of the burgeoning crime wave that has taken Whalley to the Top of the Reported Crime Statistics Table in the Ribble Valley in the Last Quarter.
Police think the crime problem in Whalley May be even worse by up to 20 to 30% percent due to persistent under-reporting of crime in the village. The true level and cost of crime in Whalley therefore may be substantially higher than official figures suggest.
The problem appears to related to the increase in Violence Against the Person offences in Whalley - 37 were recorded in the First Quarter of 2019/20 - a 32% increase in offences up 9 from 28 against the same Quarter in 2018. 6 of these offences occured in relation to the night time economy. 9 of the offences were classed as Assault with injury.
Whalley also recorded the highest number of griminal damage offences. (11)
It is the persistently high level of incidents of Anti-Social Behaviour that is a cause for concern. Whalley records the second highest incidents of Anti-Social Behaviour. 3 of these took place on The Sands with youths on mopeds and congregating in the church grounds. 3 took place on King Street with complaints made about youths hanging around the toilets and the old grammar school.- drinking and smoking cannabis. The majority of incidents occured between Thursday and Saturday (8). 2 incidents of noisy youths were recorded on The Cloisters. These were primarily incidents of Youth Based Anti-Social Behaviour.
There were also a number of Non-Youth based incidents of Anti-Social Behaviour. 3 incidents of noise and disturbance were reported outside Brady's Wine Bar. 2 incidents meanwhile of loud music and drunken males were reported on Station Road.
Although the vast majority of people in Whalley rate the job done by the police as good or excellent there is also an underlying perception that the police are poor for crime prevention/reduction and solving crime. Therefore it is little wonder that people are not reporting crime and when asked why they say there is ‘no point / not worth it' followed by 'the police couldn't have done anything'. While more trivial crimes or historic theft may well not be reported for practical reasons this points to a clear breakdown in the belief and trust that the police are effective in rural areas.
Martin Highton, the Chairman of Whalley Parish Council states, “There is a strong need to foster a positive relationship between the police and the community because if consistent under reporting remains entrenched people may suffer further as issues remain hidden and go unaddressed.”
Martin continues, “It is vital that the Voice of Whalley is heard and the personal, social and economic costs of crime and anti-social behaviour are fully understood and acted upon by all agencies.”
Martin concludes, “The community in Whalley should be encouraged to report all incidents of criminal behaviour: anti-social behaviour, road safety concerns and fly tipping - there is a clear reluctance to report crime. If criminal activity is nor reported in the official statistics Whalley will not get the policing it requires or deserves!”
Crime is under reported in rural areas - more than one in four (27%) did not report the last crime of which they were a victim, according to statistics from the Rural Crime Network. Worryingly the main reasons crimes were not reported was because the victim either felt it was a waste of time or that the police would not be able to do anything or could not help.
The frequently quoted reason for shifting policing resources away from rural and towards urban areas (the retreat from rural policing) is the policing policy of assessing need based on 'threat, risk and harm'. The problem is that there is large scale under-reporting, of the £800m crime bill being footed by rural communities This is equivalent to £200 for every household in the countryside. The average cost to households who are victims of crime is £2500 and it is £4100 for rural businesses. Only 26% of households that suffered a loss made an insurance claim. Amongst rural businesses the figure was 32% to cover their loss and these tended to be related to significant losses from burglary of a property. On average insurance claims only covered 80% of the true cost of crime because of factors like property repairs, increased security, loss of earnings, legal fees and higher insurance premiums following a claim.
Rural businesses have a significantly heightened fear of crime and many are more worried now than they were five years ago. The financial impact is debilitating for a business and that greater impact appears to be turning into a frustration and greater concern of repeat crime compared to five years ago. What this indicates is a need for police resources to be more attuned to the needs of rural businesses going forward as they remain a key part of the economic infrastructure of the countryside.
Gillian Derbyshire, the current President of Whalley Lions, whose Accountancy Business on the Sidings in Whalley was the subject of a recent break-in states, “Businesses are victims too. In targeting criminal activity, the police and partners need to develop specific prevention and response policies focused on improving protection for rural businesses. Where this exists, best practice needs to be better shared.”
Whalley is a beautiful place to live and offers a lifestyle many aspire to, but the picture postcard hides crime which can be on par with urban areas: anti-social behaviour (ASB), law and order and policing are a key concern. The experience of crime in Whalley differs in many aspects from urban areas. Whether falling victim to crime or not, simply fearing the possibility of crime can have a detrimental effect on the quality of Whalley residents lives. It has been suggested that fear of crime has the potential for greater harm due to the effect of long- term stress and other mental health considerations.
We should pay close attention to the reality of the experience of victims of crime in Whalley. The impact of crime in rural areas is different not least because of the challenges of rural isolation and a lack of support and services
Whalley like many rural communities is extremely resilient. It is a resilience which has been reinforced by the self-reliance it developed during the Boxing Day Floods of 2015 when the village was literally forced to rely on its own resources and continues to do so. The community spirit is strong with many people feeling they belong to the Whalley community which has strengthened over the last few years against the background of flooding and the attempted forced closure of the library and more recently in response to crime in their area. The picture is one of a stoical population having to deal with crime as best they can while getting on with their everyday lives. The perception of the police's poor effectiveness in fighting crime, coupled with an under reporting of crime implies that we have a rural population and economy simply putting up with the crime they experience and making do as best they can.
The most significant emotions experienced by those who have suffered crime are ones of anger and frustration about a perceived inability by police to act on crime but also the increased fear and concern as a result of being a victim of crime which raises the pervasive fear of crime out of proportion to the actual threat. Rural communities, like Whalley, are more accessible to urban based criminals and are seen as soft targets and should be prioritised accordingly by the police. Amongst our rural communities those who fear crime the most are hard pressed rural young working families and elderly residents.
Locally, young victims in the under 24 year old age group were less likely to report crime, compared to those in the 25 – 64 age ranges. People in the age group of 65 and over were also less likely to report. Many Whalley residents report that the main reason that they don’t report crime was that it was too minor / they didn’t have time or they couldn’t get hold of the police (and gave up). Many residents have reported a negative experience of using the 101 number. They report very little feedback being given when incidents are reported.
For those in the criminologist fraternity the non-reporting of Crime is becoming normalised. For some people crime is such a common occurrence and they do not report it to police because it is perceived as a normal/minor event. In other cases it may genuinely be a minor crime that the person considers not worth bothering with.
Other people’s perception is that crime is too embarrassing / traumatic or fear being blamed for not protecting themselves or their property robustly enough. Sometimes people feel embarrassed or too traumatised to report crimes. They may think that the police might not treat them sensitively.
Some people moreover are not concerned about what’s happened to them. Others are not concerned or upset by what has happened. They take these things in their stride, and act as if they are not bothered, even if it has been a serious crime.
People are also concerned about going to the police and perhaps having to go to court and give evidence. If they report a crime then they have to appear to the court quite a few times which is time consuming. This is exacerbated by previous experience with the police or courts - crime may not be reported because of the previous bad experience with police or courts.
Many others have pointed out that the most common reason why they choose not to report a crime was ‘Fear of reprisals from the perpetrators’ in relation to themselves, their family, their possessions or more worryingly their children who are still at school or they felt the Crime was just too trivial to report or of more concern they did not want to be involved in legal matters. Some people think that crime is a private matter especially if there is a relationship with the offender(s) and they don’t want to involve any one else in the matter. They want to resolve it in their own way, particularly if it relates to Young Offenders.
There is also a fear of community reaction. Going public means ‘everyone’ will know what happened to them, media, work, friends. A more disturbing trend is that crime is not taken seriously or will not be taken forward.
It is vital therefore that local services: Police, schools, education/offenders and particularly young offenders services, local councils are aware how victims and witnesses are managed which has a major influence on them reporting again in the future. Good policing depends upon strong police and public co- operation and engagement.
Where the rural community is strong and pulling together in support of each other both fear of crime and rating of their local police is better. There is clearly a role for localised rural policing working with communities and other agencies, which will help to strengthen those neighbourhoods. building the resilience of local communities yet further.
Cllr Ged Mirfin, who represents Whalley and Painter Wood states, “The community in Whalley seems to be growing stronger - Residents report that their feeling of belonging has strengthened over the last five years. That sense of community is something which the police and their partners need to recognise, understand and ultimately, tap into. Using community based initiatives, and building on the strong foundation already clearly in place, the police and local authorities could close the apparent gaps in trust and confidence.
Ged continues, “What this indicates is a need for police resources to be more attuned to the needs of rural businesses and communities, ensure that rural areas on the fringes of large conurbations are prioritised and that of young rural families and elderly residents are addressed when it comes to targeted policing.”
Ged continues further, “Many urban areas will have 'Anti-Social Behaviour Hubs' or have council staff with certain police powers such as Community and Public Space Protection Orders. Police and partners need to consider how these multi-agency services can be developed to benefit Whalley which in turn be supported by the resilient and public-minded community in Whalley.”
Cllr Mark Hindle, who also represents the Whalley and Painter Wood Ward, states, “Police, government and other partners must work better together - good rural policing is about far more than numbers of police officers on the ground. If we truly want to tackle rural crime, then we must form more effective partnerships between the police, rural communities and other authorities on a multi-agency basis.”
Mark continues, “Consideration needs to be given to the nature and size of resources and potential for multi disciplinary teams, something more commonly done in urban areas, but which can be less developed in rural locations like Whalley.”
Mark further continues, “Policing must be targeted better - police resources are routinely focused on areas which have the greatest 'threat, risk and harm'. The police need to acknowledge the lack of trust and confidence and a reluctance to report crime as a significant risk. Within rural areas like Whalley what this highlights is that more vulnerable victims on the fringes of urban areas which includes businesses and hard pressed families in particular. are likely to be at even greater risk of crime in the future if criminal behaviour is not reported.”
Cllr Ged Mirfin concludes, “We need to build on the resilience - the nature of the close knit community in Whalley presents an opportunity for service providers. Police and their partners however need to reassess how they engage and communicate with the community to leverage even greater resilience.”
Cllr Andrew Snowden, the Conservative Candidate for Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner said “Representing a neighboring rural area in Chorley as a County Councillor, I know how the withdrawal of rural policing and the impact it is having on crime rates and community safety is a problem. From more serious crimes to anti-social behavior it has removed the deterrent; it is not acceptable and something needs to change”.
“It’s really important that crime is reported, as it impacts on the assessments of where resources need to be deployed. So I would encourage Ribble Valley residents to ensure they report all crime they come across. As rural communities we are very hardy and resilient and we just get on with life so often things go unreported – this is will hinder the case for more rural policing, so please do take the time to report it”