CRIME in Tonbridge and Malling has risen with the number of incidents recorded up by 12 per cent in a year, although it remains the second safest borough in Kent.

The figures, which cover the 12 month period between October 2015 and September 2016 form part of the latest strategic assessment of the Tonbridge and Malling Community Safety Partnership. Members include the borough and county councils and Kent Police.

Its findings are used to dictate the partnership’s priorities over the coming year.

Despite Tonbridge and Malling’s continued low-crime status, behind only Tunbridge Wells within the county, incidents of violent crime rose by 37 per cent.

The borough’s District Commander, Chief Inspector Rachel McNeil, said the increase was ‘in line with county-wide and national trends’, adding: “While any increase is of concern, it is important to note this also reflects a positive change in confidence to report crime.”

Violent crime is categorised as including; ‘violence against the person’, robbery, and sexual offences.

In total, 2,257 incidents in this category were recorded over the period – equivalent to 17.9 violent crimes per 1,000 population.

It makes up more than a third of the 6,319 documented over the year.

Domestic violence is a significant contributor to this category and there has been a considerable rise in the number of reported cases, a fact Chief Inspector McNeil put down to ‘press coverage of high profile cases’ empowering victims to come forward.

In the six months to September 2016, there were 575 recorded incidents of domestic abuse to Kent Police within Tonbridge & Malling. This is an increase of 41 per cent on the same period last year.

Although the CEO of domestic abuse charity DAVSS, Mark Hutcheon, who also sits on Community Safety Partnership said the stark figures ‘do not raise concern’.

“You can see it as a positive, more people are feeling confident and reporting. Plus, more people are now aware that coercive and controlling behaviour [which was made a criminal offence in 2015] is now included as abuse.”

The Archers Effect

He also attributed greater awareness to ‘The Archers Effect’, named after the long-running Radio 4 series. Character Rob’s long-term emotional abuse of his wife Helen had been slowly drip fed to listeners of the show over two-and-a-half years before reaching a dramatic conclusion. For many, the story line triggered the realisation that they had been the subject of abuse.

Anti-social behaviour saw a slight decrease of 8 per cent, but there were still 2,294 incidents recorded.  Along with 1,030 cases of criminal damage and arson, an annual increase of 5 per cent.

Chief Inspector McNeil sought to reassure the local community. “Tonbridge and Malling remains a safe and vibrant district to live, work and visit and the rate of violent crime is amongst the lowest in county. I want to reassure the public that Kent Police officers continue to patrol the area to ensure it remains a safe place for everyone to enjoy.”

The report outlined five priorities for the partnership, with violent crime, domestic abuse, anti-social behaviour and mental health included.

More surprising was the selection of counter-terrorism as a prime concern for authorities in the borough.

As part of the Serious and Organised Crime Prevent Strategy, four referrals have been made from within Tonbridge and Malling to a Channel Panel.

These panels work to identify ways to reduce the likelihood of at-risk individuals being drawn into extremist ideologies.

Despite this low figure, the report recommends to prioritise counter-terrorism above substance misuse, road safety and burglary.