In a letter to the Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner, business leaders in Southampton have warned that the city centre is suffering as a result of inadequate police presence.
GO! Southampton, the city-centre Business Improvement District (BID) that represents some 650 businesses, outlined key concerns in a letter to Michael Lane – the Police & Crime Commissioner for Hampshire – and enclosed extracts of impact statements gathered from its members.
The letter highlights that, in a recent survey, 70% of BID member businesses felt fear of crime was a significant issue, as compared to a figure of 13% in 2016. 63% had seen at least one staff member assaulted in the last 12 months. BID members also report an increase in aggressive beggars and individuals openly taking drugs in plain sight of shoppers. Shoplifting is also on the increase with one of the BID’s largest retailers recently moving into the top 25 most affected by shoplifting nationally, with stock loss nearing £0.9m or 2% of turnover.
GO! Southampton believes that a ‘tipping point’ has been reached where criminals are acting without fear of any consequences. The BID is sure that the only way to combat increasing levels of crime is to restore policing to the levels they were in 2009 and before.
Giles Semper, Executive Director of GO! Southampton, said: “Crime is on the increase and in Southampton it is worse than anywhere else in Hampshire. Our experience shows that the only really effective deterrent is visible police presence. Whilst the Government has promised 20,000 new officers nationwide, we are still not confident that the city will get the numbers it needs. There is also a huge issue around accommodating and training these new officers so that they can have a quick impact.
“We have great ambitions for Southampton as a business destination and a great place to visit. But all our positive projects are undermined by the current levels of crime. How can staff in retail and leisure businesses even think about their customers when they are afraid that they might end the day as a victim of assault?
“Whilst we are great admirers of the police leadership and officers in the city, and work in a close partnership with them, they simply do not have adequate levels of personnel to respond to what is going on. This has forced us to fund extra security personnel, and to employ two former police officers – one to build case files on persistent offenders and the other to set up a new business crime partnership for the city. But our efforts will only ever constitute a ‘drop in the ocean’ when confronting a problem of this size.”
The BID has asked to meet with the Police & Crime Commissioner and senior officers to discuss the issues and to find ways in which they can be addressed.