Posted: Sun 21st Apr 2024

Decrease in Crime Seen Across Swansea and Neath Port Talbot Last Year /

CRIME fell in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot in nine out of 11 categories last year compared to a 12-month period before the Covid pandemic, a report said.
The biggest decreases were in burglary, robbery, and drugs offences which plummeted by around 52%, 48% and 38% respectively. Even shoplifting, which has come under significant scrutiny nationally, nudged downwards by 1%.
Rape and other serious sexual offences, and stalking and harassment, were the two categories where offences rose by 21% and 4% respectively. And the number of violence with injury offences was only a fraction lower than the previous period.
The figures in a report to Swansea Council’s scrutiny committee were for South Wales Police’s Swansea Neath Port Talbot command unit and compared January to December 2023 and April 2019 to March 2020.
However, the same report went on to say there was a significant rise in crime and antisocial behaviour in Swansea city centre in 2023, which led to a dedicated police response called Operation Viscaria.
Councillors on the scrutiny committee heard more about the efforts of South Wales Police and other agencies in an umbrella group called Safer Swansea Partnership to tackle the issues.
Superintendent Mark Kavanagh said an organised crime team based in Swansea was “punching well above their weight” in targeting and dismantling gangs from Birmingham, Liverpool and London which sold drugs in the area. “It’s a modest investment but the success rate is huge,” he said.
The report said 21 of these so-called County Lines operations were targeted by police last July and that 32 arrests were made. A separate police operation which got under way a month ago has netted 6kgs of cocaine, 1kg of the drug MDMA, a large quantity of ketamine, a large quantity of cannabis and £50,000 in cash. Five people have been arrested in connection with this second operation following warrants in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, Dyfed Powys and Somerset. Many more arrests are expected.
Mr Kavanagh spoke about the organised crime team after being asked by Cllr Chris Holley if police genuinely felt they had a handle on drugs in Swansea, which he felt was “the elephant in the room”.
The superintendent said the drugs market fluctuated from month to month, and that international trends such as the rise in synthetic opioids were beginning to affect the area. He added: “As long as there is an ongoing customer base for drugs we will continue to see the presence of organised crime in Swansea. It’s about trying to stem the flow of drugs, and prevent people accessing drugs in the first place.”
Without investing in the reasons behind people’s drug use, he said, “I think we are going to go round in a vicious circle”.
But Mr Kavanagh stressed that police would be relentless in targeting those involved in the supply of drugs. He said: “If they are selling drugs in the city centre, they will be stopped, they will be searched and they will be prosecuted. There’s no doubt about that.”
Cllr Hayley Gwilliam, cabinet member for community support, said some people committed a crime “purposefully” because they’d receive faster treatment for their drug problem in prison than they would in the community, which wasn’t helpful. Cllr Peter Black branded this “a political failure”.
Mr Kavanagh said ex-prisoners could be particularly vulnerable in the period immediately after their release and that there had been a drugs-related death in Swansea around a fortnight ago where the person had left prison three days previously.
Operation Viscaria – the operation to tackle anti-social behaviour and crime in Swansea city centre – was launched last November. During the first 12 weeks officers attended 147 incidents and made 84 arrests for offences including shoplifting, violence and drugs. There were also nearly 1,000 visits to retailers, and perceptions of feelings of safety among businesses improved significantly as the operation continued. The manager of Aldi, Parc Tawe, according to the report, said: “Breath of fresh air, it’s good to see so much police around and that they are focusing on issues in the city centre.”
During the meeting Mr Kavanagh said detection rates of rape cases by South Wales Police had risen from 3.1% three years ago to 11% currently. This means that charges would be brought in the vast majority of these 11% of cases.
Mr Kavanagh also said detection rates for burglaries had gone up from 7.5% to 17.3%. He added that motorbike theft was a big issue in Swansea whereas car crime was less prevalent compared to other parts of the force area.
Cllr Black asked if police were confident of deploying resources quickly enough to prevent a riot like the one that occurred in Mayhill, Swansea, in May, 2021. Chief superintendent Chris Truscott said the force had had a number of “testing” incidents since then, and that this gave him operational confidence and a sense of being “far better prepared to respond”.
The meeting also heard from council leader Rob Stewart, who said a lot of work continued to be done by various agencies in and around High Street, that £1 million has been spent on a new city centre CCTV system, and that blocks of council flats at the top of the street were going to be upgraded. This, said Cllr Stewart, was on top of major investment in new High Street buildings. “We have challenges, as every city has – some people need extreme levels of support,” he said.
Councillors asked about hate crime, extremism and the Prevent programme, which aims to stop people supporting terrorism or becoming terrorists. There have been 17 Prevent referrals in Swansea between the beginning of last April and the end of February this year.
Cllr Adam Davis wanted to know if advice was offered to businesses which allowed groups to use their premises for meetings without realising they could have a far right agenda.
Paul Thomas, the council’s community integration partnership manager, said in the old days far right groups tended to get together somewhere, drink too much alcohol, fight and be very open about what they intended to do.
“It’s now moved very much to the online space, which makes disruption more difficult,” he said. “Our risks in Swansea are more around far right and extreme right extremism. That’s not to say we don’t focus on other forms of ideology that seek to undermine our values.”
Mr Thomas said there were groups which were undermining communities with the language they used but which operated below the threshold of Prevent intervention.
“I will say it here, with one particular organisation, the likes of Tommy Robinson and Britain First are grateful because they are doing their job for them in Wales,” he said.
Mr Thomas added that hate crime in Swansea was also being fuelled by the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. “Our graffiti removal teams are being targeted by people from both sides of the conflict,” he said.
Crime figures for South Wales Police’s Swansea Neath Port Talbot command area from January 2023 to December 2023, compared to April 2019 to March 2020:
Burglary: 559 offences, down 52.4%
Robbery: 63 offences, down 47.9%
Drug offences: 551, down 37.7%
Knife crime, excluding possession: 116 offences, down 20%
Anti-social behaviour: 4,219 occurrences, down 14%
Domestic abuse: 3,015 offences, down 2.3%
Shoplifting: 2,023 offences, down 1%
Violence with injury: 2,164 offences, down 0.7%
Emergency and priority incidents: 45,628 incidents, down 10.2%
Stalking and harassment: 2,826 offences, up 4.1%
Rape and other serious sexual offences: 580 offences, up 21.6% ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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