Schoolchildren in West Sussex are to be asked to share their experiences of antisocial behaviour and crime in an online survey about community safety concerns was recently carried out by the Safer West Sussex Partnership. It attracted more than 1,300 responses. The partnership now plans to work with secondary schools in early 2024 to help understand the issues affecting the county’s youngsters.
The news was shared during a West Sussex County Council scrutiny meeting where members were asked to look at the way the partnership was using the latest Strategic Intelligence Assessment to set its strategic priorities.
Alex O’Keeffe, the council’s community safety manager, said: “Children are more likely to be the victim of crime and experience antisocial behaviour as well. We really need to understand their experience. We’ve had initial conversations with all our school partners. In other areas where they’ve run this they’ve had really significant numbers – like 8,000 or 9,000 responses. Schools, I guess, have a captive audience and they can really work with children to support them to complete it. That will give us a really rich picture of children and young persons’ experience of community safety issues in the county.
The Safer West Sussex Partnership is made up of groups such as the county, district and borough councils, police, the fire service and NHS, which takes a coordinated approach to reducing crime and anti-social behaviour in the county.
It uses the Strategic Intelligence Assessment to get an accurate picture of current threats, harms, and emerging risks such as knife crime, domestic violence and county lines drug trafficking.
Current priorities centre on violence and exploitation, social inequality and hate crime, preventing radicalisation and violent extremism, domestic and sexual violence and abuse, substance misuse, and digital safety.
Mr O’Keeffe told the meeting that more than half of the crime in the county was violent in nature, with 1% classed as ‘serious violence’.
Explaining how the various kinds of crime were often connected, he described how violence was inextricably linked to exploitation and the drug markets, while almost one-third of knife crime was linked to exploitation.
In West Sussex, violence is most concentrated in town centres, with Crawley and Worthing identified as hot-spot areas in 2022. Mr O’Keeffe said: “We know from the Strategic Intelligence Assessment that a vulnerability is children being excluded from school – so we need to work our hardest to support children in schools to keep them in mainstream education.
Other work being developed centres around online fraud, courier fraud – which mostly targets the elderly – and sexploitation, which mostly targets children and young people.
On the issue of hate crime, Mr O’Keeffe said that while the amount recorded was low, that was probably because so few victims actually reported incidents. There was a 13% increase in the reporting of hate crime in 2022 and he added that spikes in hate crime were seen following major social events such as Brexit and the war in Ukraine.
Acknowledging that this was something the partnership would need to look into, Mr O’Keeffe said: “If intelligence tells us particular groups may be more affected by crime and disorder and those groups haven’t responded to the survey, we need to think about doing some targeted engagement with them to really understand that.”