By Chris Brierley, Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner
Ignorance is bliss.
It is a phrase I fall back on whenever I discover stories in the media I didn’t know about. Like news that security forces have prevented more terrorist attacks; or a police operation has foiled criminals whose activities would keep fathers like me awake at night.
But then, as deputy police and crime commissioner, I am also privy to much information that isn’t made public. A fact that prompted a former editor of this newspaper to suggest that the police and PCC’s office were guilty of ‘sugar-coating the truth’. Does he have a point?
Recently, I represented Martin Surl at a National Crime Agency (NCA) briefing in London – the UK’s FBI. The statistics around child sexual exploitation and abuse, a subject most would find difficult to digest, were both staggering and depressing.
According to the Chief Constable for Norfolk, around 20,000 men - but probably many more in the UK - are interested in abusing children. The figure for women wasn’t given.
On top of that, from Jan-Nov 2017, the NCA received 72,000 referrals regarding child sexual images online – up from 6,000 in 2010. While the NSPCC estimates a 31 % increase in cases of child sexual abuse.
Yes, there’s an argument that publicity brings more reporting, catches more criminals. But how do those numbers make you feel?
I’ve been told how many children in Gloucestershire are listed as potentially at risk which both scares and saddens me. And though I am unable to share those figures, would you want to know? Should you know?
Gloucestershire is one of the safest places to live in this country. But, like everywhere else, we must acknowledge that we have our issues too.
The office in-tray is often populated by people concerned about burglary or the lack of a police presence in their area and that’s why Martin pushed the Constabulary to come up with a neighbourhood policing plan which will restore people’s confidence. But balancing resources with greatest need is difficult. That’s not an excuse, it’s the reality.
Whilst it’s true that the fear of crime is often worse that the reality, would it make you feel safer if you knew the full facts?