Police UK reveals violence / sexual offence reports in Salisbury

OUT of the 6,088 reports of crime in Salisbury and the surrounding areas last year, nearly 1,800 were associated with violence or sexual assault.

Between February 2020 and January 2021 inclusive, police recorded 1,766 reports of violent or sexual offences.

While the Covid-19 lockdowns have had a positive impact on overall crime levels, this crime category – which can include anything from minor assaults and harassment, to murder or rape – has not been greatly impacted by the pandemic, data from Police UK suggests.

Increase in percentage of violence / sexual assault reports

Although figures show that between February 2019 and January 2020 there were slightly more calls about violent or sexual offences – 1,843 reports out of 7,136 in Salisbury and the surrounding areas – the percentage of these types of crimes has gone up, from 25.8 per cent of total crime reported locally in 2019-20, to 29 per cent in 2020-21.

The infographic below shows the number of violent or sexual offences reported to police each month during this time period.

Despite drops and rises, which reflect less activity reported during previous lockdowns, the data suggests that reports of this nature have overall remained consistent throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Salisbury Journal: Number of violence and sexual offences reported to Wiltshire Police between February 2019 and January 2021 (data from Police UK)Number of violence and sexual offences reported to Wiltshire Police between February 2019 and January 2021 (data from Police UK)

Sarah Everard investigation

The shocking death of Sarah Everard brought concerns of women and safety to the surface earlier this month, and led to calls for calm from many police forces, with Wiltshire Police telling the Journal that such extreme offences are “incredibly rare”.

Sarah, 33, went missing after walking home alone in South London. A body found hidden in woodland in Kent was identified as her remains, and a Metropolitan Police officer has been charged with her kidnap and murder.

The anecdotal evidence, about the reality of crime and the threat women feel to their safety, has been overwhelming nationwide in the aftermath of Sarah Everard’s death.

The details also heightened concerns regarding safety at night, and women in particular have taken to social media to share the extreme measures they often take in order to feel safe when travelling on their own.

READ: Helping women feel safe as nightlife set to return next month

Salisbury Journal: Sarah Everard investigation - Picture from PA Wire / Gareth FullerSarah Everard investigation – Picture from PA Wire / Gareth Fuller

The most reported crime group

For the most part, in Salisbury and South Wiltshire, it is true that such extreme cases rarely come up. They do happen, though – as our coverage of Marcin Zdun’s murder trial, who killed his wife Aneta and daughter Nikoleta on June 1, 2020, showed back in December.

It should be said there has been an overall drop in crime in our city over the last three years. But violent and sexual offences have remained among the most reported crimes in Salisbury, along with antisocial behaviour offences.

READ: More than 1,600 antisocial behaviour reports kept police busy during pandemic

Breaking down Police UK data

Focusing on Salisbury City Centre, between August 2020 and January 2021 inclusive, 821 crimes were reported in this area, and of those 149 were violence related or a report of a sexual offence. This is the equivalent of nearly one of these types of crime a day.

As the Salisbury policing boundary covers a wide area, including villages like Downton, Laverstock, Wilton and Alderbury, we have zoomed in on and unmasked the figures for the city centre, which we have defined as the space between Salisbury Railway Station, Salisbury Cathedral and up to but not including the surrounding A36 (see map below).

Check

Map highlighting Salisbury City Centre (edited) – Screen grab from Police UK

Most reported crime hotspots in city centre

Police UK data suggests that in this six-month period, Barnard Street and Payne’s Hill was the area in the city centre with the most violence and sexual crime reported, with 20 of the 55 offences recorded as such.

This was followed by Brown Street and Rollestone Street, with 15 violent or sexual acts reported during this time.

Although the crime data lacks detail, and the violent and sexual offence category is broad, it says a lot in these times that police are consistently receiving calls of this nature in our city, even as crime fell in general due to lockdowns.

Salisbury Journal: Areas in Salisbury City Centre with the most violence/ sexual offences reported to police, between August 2020 and January 2021 (data from Police UK)Areas in Salisbury City Centre with the most violence/ sexual offences reported to police, between August 2020 and January 2021 (data from Police UK)

Wiltshire is an ‘overwhelmingly safe county’

Wiltshire Police did not comment specifically on crime statistics when approached for this article.

However, in the wake of the shocking Sarah Everard murder investigation, chief constable Kier Pritchard did insist Wiltshire is a safe place to live.

Describing the type of crime seen in the murder case as “incredibly rare”, the chief constable wants to assure residents that Wiltshire is an “overwhelmingly safe county”. He also insisted officers would work tirelessly for victims, to ensure harassment or violent acts do not go unpunished.

He said: “This tragic and shocking case has prompted an outpouring of testimonies from women across the UK, who have been sharing their experiences of harassment, abuse and violence and the fact that so many of them do not feel safe while out and about, walking our streets. No one should feel unsafe – at home or on the streets – but far too many do.”

Wiltshire Police Federation chairman Mark Andrews and Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Kier Pritchard

Wiltshire Police Federation chairman Mark Andrews and Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Kier Pritchard

He added: “My police officers and staff are committed to protecting the public and work tirelessly to bring offenders to justice.

“We should be careful to listen to and understand the very real experiences and fears that women do have, and on that note I would like to encourage everyone to report any incident to the police. We will not tolerate harassment, violence or abuse against any person, and we want victims to feel confident that they will be listened to and that police action will be taken against anyone who breaks the law.”

This was previously echoed by the chairman of the Wiltshire Police Federation, who said that despite Wiltshire being “one of the safest counties in the country to live”, police officers will always be prepared to protect those who feel at risk.

Inspector Mark Andrews emphasised that harassment incidents are taken seriously by officers, and the force is trained to deal with these situations, whether it is day or night. 

Salisbury Journal | News