Police chief calls for more to be done to target public perception and fear around street lighting changes

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Street lighting. EMN-171117-113538001 EMN-171117-113538001

The Assistant Chief Constable for Lincolnshire Police has told councillors that more of an effort will be needed to target the public perception and fear around changes to street lighting - as well as create better statistical analysis of the changes.

ACC Shaun West, was speaking to Lincolnshire County Council’s Scrutiny Review committee on the Impact of the Part Night Street Lighting Policy following the release of a police report last week looking at crime figures across the county.

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Mr West reiterated reports that crime was low, and that many crimes had seen a decrease across the count. He repeated that an increase of 55 incidents of criminal damage showed no evidence to link them to street lighting changes.

He also restated that Lincolnshire was the fourth safest policing area in the country with only a four per cent rise in crime, compared to 11 per cent nationally.

However, he and the police force, made several recommendations to councillors to produce more accurate and helpful reports in the future, with a general agreement among members of the committee that the report last week was a ‘general overview’ of crime reports.

He put the onus on the county council to supply specific areas which were affected by part lighting - for example. He said a wider data set would enable a better picture to be created.

He also asked for the council’s input on what they would like in future reports, including to what extent they would want crimes such as anti-social behaviour, RTCs and assaults.

He added that more of an effort was needed to target the public perception and fear of part night lighting increase in crime.

He said: “My colleagues tell me, and when I’m at community forums myself, or at the barbers and they know what I do what they vent about with passion and rigour and what you’ll see from your own survey is they say Shaun, we get we are safe and Lincolnshire is the fourth safest county in the country, that’s something we are proud of and strive to be, but that bit about feeling safe does not always reassure us.

“For many lighting is not just a source of light, it is a source of comfort. For many they have grown up with it and for some that’s the anger and anxiety we experience in forums and news and it is at our peril if we do not listen to that and adjust or adapt accordingly.

“That of course, does not mean, and I am not advocating, that as a consequence part night lighting is reversed but as a partnership we need to look at how we make people feel.

“This report is about statistics, I apologize to public and press for talking about statistics and as the ACC in Lincolnshire I absolutely recognize there are victims behind each of those statistics so forgive me about talking like some sort of purist.

“We absolutely get the emotional connection if you are a victim and the affect this has on your life.”

“There’s a very different thing about being safe and actually feeling safe” he told Councillors.

Mr West also made a commitment to councillors.

He said: “I’ve heard challenges about myself as the Assistant Chief Constable being partners with Lincolnshire County Council, that if there is an increase we will not hold county council to account.

“However, for public record members of the community can be absolutely confident that if there’s any suggestion that there is a connection between crime and therefore potential for victims to be harmed as a consequence of lighting changes we would have that conversation with you [Lincolnshire County Council] to hold you to account.

“This is not only a legal responsibility but a personal commitment to our community of Lincolnshire.”

Coun Paul Skinner praised consideration of NICHE and asked if data sets were similar to what other forces had been used.

Coun Kirk acknowledged that the report, which doesn’t cover town centres, only gave an overview and said scrutiny needed to be getting data for areas which were affected by part-lighting.

Mr West confirmed what he said and added that the police report could only be as good as the data officers had been provided.

LCC’s group manager for Design Services said analysts at Lincolnshire Police had been contacted by data officers at LCC. He said it was about finding a mechanism about exporting map-based data in a way that wasn’t just ‘a long list of street names’.

Councillors did discussed other types of crimes to include, including assaults which took place in the street (rather than inside properties), and antisocial behaviour such as drug using.

Sara Barry, the Safer Communities Manager however, said she would be ‘nervous’ if councillors chose to include ASB in future reports on the effect of part night lighting from police because: “It is one of those types of crime and incidents which has a great many fluxuations depending on what’s going on out there - it goes up in school holidays and if it snows and there’s snowball fights. It has a lot of fluxuation and there’s a lot of anti-social behaviour done by school children.”

ACC West also used the committee to reiterate the need for funding. He said communities were reassured by the presence of officers in their communities and would be more so if police had presence in the streets but said the force had to allocate its limited resources where it was needed.

Ms Barry suggested waiting to see what council’s consultation, which closes on January 5, said before deciding what to do about public perception. But said the Community Safety Partnership had statutory duties to consider it as well.

Coun Skinner said it was very important to establish a decent data-set to understand what was happening.

Councillors were told by officers that there would be further work to ensure data which they needed was supplied.

It was also suggested that councillors asking for data from previous years as well.

Councillors were told that so far, 3,258 responses received to the consultation across the county

Following the deadline it is hoped to evaluate the evidence further from February onwards with a final report being made in June of 2018.