Is Malvern a Safe Place to Live?

Lansdowne Debate

Our latest debate took place on Saturday 21st October, when about 50 people braved a wet and windy evening to come along.  The question before the panel was ‘Is Malvern a safe place to live?’.  Rev Nigel gave a warm welcome and the experienced panel was introduced by barrister Jenny Jones who took the chair.  She began by quoting some crime figures for August 2017, when the most common cases in Malvern were for anti-social behaviour, followed by assaults and burglaries.  There were no cases involving weapons in that month.

Rev. Lynne Sparkes, Priest at St Mary’s, Pickersleigh, works in the 8th most deprived area in the Worcester Diocese.  It has the highest population density in the county, with many children living in poor households, but most people consider it to be a safe place to live.  Kevin Purcell, Police Commander for South Worcestershire, works with partners such as the Council, and has to look at ways of delivering police services to meet the needs of the current age. With less funding he is accountable for every penny spent.

Paul Leopold, Chairman of West Mercia Neighbourhood Watch and former high-ranking Inspector with the Metropolitan Police, said that only 1 person in 18 in Malvern is affected by crime, compared with the national average of 1 in 10, so it can be regarded as a safer area to live.  There is a good number of neighbourhood Watch Schemes, but he stressed the need to inform the Police (on telephone number 101) of anything suspicious.  Rob Rich, MHDC Manager for Community Safety Resilience, said that Malvern is generally safe, but crime exists, such as shoplifting, thefts from vehicles and anti-social behaviour.  He said that such crimes need to be reported so that they can be addressed.  In addition, there is a serious concern about unreported crimes, such as hate crimes and domestic and child abuse.

After the coffee break the team discussed several questions from audience members.  The first was whether Malvern’s crime figures give an accurate representation when some areas are affluent and others poor.  The Police Commander listed the types of crime which may be not be reported to the police: car damage, low level damage to property, sexual crimes and assault.  For various reasons, less affluent areas have more unreported crime than affluent areas, but more crimes are now reported and then recorded, even when the victim doesn’t want to pursue the case.

The second question, from someone who had been caught by an on-line scam, was a request for the return of a counter service at Malvern Police Station.  Kevin Purcell said that this is not possible because, due to the cost of staffing the counter, three more police officers can be made available to work in the community for the same money.  However, there is a possibility that mobile police stations may operate in the future, being at set places at set times.  In the meantime, if people cannot get to Worcester Police Station, the police can make a home visit.

A 21st Century question was next: ‘How do we protect our children and grandchildren from on-line abuse?’  Rev. Lynne said that education is vital to make both parents and children aware of the dangers.  Rob Rich has teams that go into schools to deal with bullying questions.  Restricting children’s use of IT is necessary to protect them, and adults should look for early signs of on-line abuse, reporting any instances they come across.  The Police have been trained to deal sensitively with these issues.

The debate was held at the end of the National Hate Crime Week operation, during which a team of actors in Church Walk told stories aimed to raise the profile of the problems.  The team was asked whether there is any hate crime in Malvern.  Kevin Purcell said that it does exist, it is increasing and the smaller the number of people in a minority group in an area, the more likely it is to happen. Eastern European workers are currently targeted for abuse, and Jenny Jones said that there has been an increase in the cases of discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of ethnicity, gender etc.

The question time ended on a lighter note, about street lighting in Malvern. The large number of trees and shrubs can create dark patches by masking street lights and increase the danger of tripping on uneven pavements.  Rob Rich said that good lighting is a deterrent; security lights and gravel drives can improve the security of the home.

To conclude, the audience and panel do consider Malvern generally to be a safe place to live, but one crime which affects people in any area of the country is on-line crime.  The Police Commander has promised to come to Malvern to talk about On-Line Security and Children, and Lansdowne Methodist Church hopes to host this event in the New Year.

The next Question Time will be on Saturday 17th March: Education Budget Cuts: How will Malvern Schools Cope?

Thanks as always to the members of the Learning Toglet who organise these events, the many people from Lansdowne (plus friends) who help prepare the church and the many people who help on the night to provide stewarding, catering, collecting and sorting questions etc.

Cynthia Merriman and David Tweats