Sir Graham Bright on a steep rise in reported crimes in Cambridgeshire

graham_bright08:19 Friday 30th January 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: It’s a week after new data revealed a rise in crime figures for Cambridgeshire over the last year, and now Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner is available to speak to us. The information was released by the Office for National Statistics. It shows sexual offences are up 55%, violent crime is up 44%, and violent crime resulting in injury is up 33%. Sir Graham Bright issued a statement at the time but has been too busy to schedule an interview, that is until today. Sir Graham, some people might say that in the light of these figures, which you can’t deny do sound alarming, sexual offences up, violent crime up, robberies up, you’re only here to talk about this more than a week afterwards. How do you explain that?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Well first of all we need to try to understand those figures, and we are still working on just that. They are confusing, without any doubt, and we’ve got to sort of dig, dig underneath. I’m asking the police to give a full report on this to me, which will go to the Board, where we hold them obviously to account. And we hope to bring some more information out on that. There’s obviously, certainly with some of those figures, we were expecting an increase, because we’ve been encouraging people to report crime.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Excuse me Sir Graham. I’m just going to interrupt, and let’s go back to this delay of a week. I accept what you say, that sometimes you need a little bit of time to interpret figures, but a week? Isn’t it your job to come on the radio and reassure the public about figures like this?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Well you went ahead so rapidly, and I was in a meeting elsewhere and couldn’t be with you. And then ..
DOTTY MCLEOD: We’re a news organisation. We can’t apologise for reporting the news quickly.
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Well you sometimes sort of try and jump in even before it happens. I hadn’t seen those stats at all, and it took us by surprise when they came out.
DOTTY MCLEOD: I don’t find that particularly reassuring, that the media were picking up on crime figures before the Police and Crime Commissioner.
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Well the Police and Crime Commissioner was elsewhere working. I’m not sitting looking at reports all the time.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Isn’t it your job though to be on top of figures like this?

GRAHAM BRIGHT: Well with due respect the police were. The Constabulary issued a statement. I issued a statement which was clear for you to see what it was all about. But to actually get into really looking at those figures, we needed more time, which is why I’ve asked the police to look further, because I’m still not happy with what I’m seeing on there. There are reasons. One of the violence against the person figures which is up 38%. I’m being told that because we’re recording crimes more accurately, and that now includes violence against the person if someone actually gets a scratch. (LAUGHS) So it’s a very .. it’s a very sort of subjective thing, and we need to know about that. I need to know about that. You need to know about it. But it takes time to dig deep in on that. And what I don’t do, and I never have and never will, is give knee-jerk answers that haven’t got substance to them.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Let’s talk then about these figures. You said at the time that the reason for these rises was a rise in reporting, that more people have confidence in the police, and that more people are reporting crime. Exactly what are you basing that on?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Well that’s on sexual offences. It’s on that side of things, particularly relating to young people and to incidents that take place within the home.
DOTTY MCLEOD: OK but how do you know that this is more reporting, not more crime?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: We obviously monitor these things, and one of the things that we’ve recently done, and we did talk about this a little while ago, was set up a victims’ hub, where you’re much more able to talk to people, understand where they’re coming from and where they’re going to. And that’s where we have huge confidence. In fact Cambridgeshire, if you want to look at figures, has probably got the highest confidence rating anywhere in the country. And we want to try and build on that, because we want to encourage people to report crimes and not just sit on their hands or shrug their shoulders and say, well no-one’s going to take any notice of me. That message is getting through, and we are getting more people engaging with us. So we know that ..
DOTTY MCLEOD: But how do you know that?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: I accept what you’re saying, and that is some further research that we are actually working on, to make sure we are totally correct. We do have obviously evidence from the victims that we’re talking to that that is the case. But we need to substantiate that, I know. And that will be done. But these surveys aren’t .. we’re not just sort of going out in the street and asking anyone. We’re following through victims. We’re talking to people who’ve reported crime, to understand it. And that does take time, and we will do it. And I intend to press ahead with that.
DOTTY MCLEOD: The difficult thing though is that if you start saying that a rise in reports of sexual offences is good, what about the drop in drug offences, the drop in theft? Is that bad? Are people not confident at reporting that kind of crime?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Well that’s probably reflecting the true state of affairs. If you look at those figures ..
DOTTY MCLEOD: But you can’t really have it both ways Sir Graham. Surely you can see what I’m saying here. You’re having your cake and eating it.
GRAHAM BRIGHT: I’m sorry, but you know people aren’t going to report the fact that they’re using drugs. So we’ve got to use evidence of actually arresting people and investigations. But if you look at those figures against the rest of the country, we are below the rest of the country all the way through. So because of the new sort of reporting method of crime statistics .. and I was very keen on making sure that the reporting was correct. The HMI was concerned about that. In fact they’ve given us good support on this. They believe we’re doing the right thing, and I obviously have to rely on HMI, and I take due note of whatever they’re saying. So we’re doing it right. But if you look at the figures, if you look at violence against the person, we’re below the national average. Sexual offences, we’re average. And the area of violence against the person, again we’re quite a bit below the national average. So we’re standing in the right place. But I .. I don’t want any crime figures to go up. I want to know .. you know, you can ask me as many times as you like. The answer is we’re looking at it. I’m expecting a report on it. That report will be published, and maybe we can talk about it again then.
DOTTY MCLEOD: OK. Cambridgeshire did have the highest in the country I believe in terms of a rise in sexual offences. Is that not a worry?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Yes but we’re still below the national average by quite a bit. So that’s why this needs to be looked at in some detail. We are talking to other forces about it. The ACPO support our view on this, and we obviously we’re going to talk about those, we’re talking to other forces, and we’re looking in great detail at these figures. And as I say I’m expecting a report to come to me from the Board, and that will be out in the open once we’ve got it.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Have you seen a rise in prosecutions for sexual offences?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Well the sexual offences side of things and the prosecutions aren’t just necessarily down to us. They’re down to the judiciary as well. I want to see anyone, particularly on sexual offences ..
DOTTY MCLEOD: So you don’t know. Or is that a ‘no’? Have you seen a rise in prosecutions?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: No we haven’t.
GRAHAM BRIGHT: But I say we are very much tied to the judiciary, because they’re the people that take those things forward. But I’m very keen, particularly on sexual offences, to drive that hard and to ensure that if you’ve got people who are committing sexual offences, they’re caught and they’re dealt with. Because what we don’t want to do is to wind the clock back and end up twenty years ahead and people coming forward and saying that wasn’t investigated, or that was not the case. This is why so much of this has brought more and more people out. The Jimmy Savile case and other cases that have been running.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So have you seen a rise in historical allegations of child abuse?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Oh yes. There are historical allegations there, and that of course is something again which we’re going to have to follow through. This has tumbled out again because of the Jimmy Savile and because of ongoing investigations in other parts of the country, some of the serious offences that took place a while back. So that is something else that we’re having to handle. But I’m really concerned, particularly with offences against young children, that we’re on top of it. And a huge effort’s being made in Peterborough as you know. We’ve had a lot of success there and a lot of prosecutions, and they have been dealt with. And we’ve obviously got to concentrate on protecting people now. But at the same time, if offences took place, you can’t just sort of brush it under the carpet. They have to be investigated as well.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And then gone on to be prosecuted, because this is the point I’m making about prosecutions. If more people are taking this really brave and quite difficult step of reporting sexual offences, as you say they are, if it then doesn’t go on to resulting a case or a trial or a prosecution, it’s worth asking what’s the point.
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Well the case has to be made. And Crown Prosecution Service haas got to be prepared to take that forward. We have got to give them the sort of .. the right evidence that they require, which is obviously what we’re aiming to do. But we are in the hands to an extent with them, because they have to have a case that stands up, otherwise they won’t take it forward.
DOTTY MCLEOD: OK. Sir Graham Bright there, Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, talking to us about those rises in certain types of crime across Cambridgeshire, the figures released last week. Good to get the chance to talk to him today.