I DON’T want anybody getting the wrong idea about violent crime having increased for the fourth year in a row.

Come to think of it, I don’t want anybody getting the wrong idea about Wiltshire Police having received 43,021 reports of all kinds of crime in the 12 months to September of last year, up from 40,273 the previous year.

Possession of weapons increased, as did sexual offences, shoplifting and criminal damage, while reports of robberies more than doubled.

The growing possession of weapons is especially bewildering. I’m amazed that the banning of zombie knives - those novelty knives with a bit of green paint on them - a couple of years back didn’t end all knife-related crime at a stroke.

After all, what other bladed articles apart from zombie knives were available?

Should anybody dare suggest to you that this situation is in any way connected to swingeing cuts in police funding these last few years, or a lack of hard-hitting sentencing policies, you can rest assured they are talking utter nonsense.

Shamefully, some of the people making these pernicious, unfounded suggestions about the state of law and order are members of my own profession.

I am proud to say I am not among their number.

There are clearly other reasons for the continued increases, otherwise successive governments would have taken a different course of action years ago.

“We must up the numbers of frontline police officers,” they would have said, “and while we’re at it we’d better beef up some of the sentencing guidelines for the offences which cause most distress to the people we serve.

“We must tell our judges to model themselves more on Judge Dredd and less on Private Godfrey from Dad’s Army.

“If we don’t, millions of those people will get the idea that we don’t give a tuppenny damn about keeping them safe from harm and fear, so long as we get to carry on doing very nicely for ourselves, living in nice neighbourhoods and never having to worry about our kids being mugged or worse.”

It is ridiculous to suggest, for example, that people are more likely to carry weapons if they believe that they’re not going to be caught, and that even if they are caught they won’t suffer any particularly inconvenient consequences.

It is also ridiculous to suggest that the same might apply to sexual offenders, robbers or shoplifters.

While we’re on the subject of misconceptions which cast important people in a bad light when we should respect and trust them instead, I’ve heard one or two cynics suggest the reason why offences such as burglary and bike theft are down is that growing numbers of victims can’t be bothered rteporting them any more.

Those silly cynics’ reasoning is that victims believe perpetrators probably won’t be caught, and that claiming for any stolen items on insurance will lead to a net loss once increased premiums kick in.

What rubbish. I am certain that burglary and bike theft is down because criminals know they will almost certainly be brought to justice.

Perhaps the answer to the latest year-on-year increases is to continue with the policy of clamping down on funding for our police forces.

After all, a similar principle lies behind the alternative medicine known as homeopathy, in which medicine is said to become more powerful the more it is diluted in water, even if it’s diluted to such an extent that not a single molecule of the original active ingredient remains.

Yes, that’ll be it.

All we have to do for a crime-free society is wait out the next few rounds of cuts.


URBAN exploration has featured in a few of our stories of late.

For the benefit of the uninitiated and people who don’t have time to wander the byways of YouTube all that often, urban exploration involves people getting into places usually unseen by the public and wandering about, often while filming the proceedings to share online later.

Sometimes old and deserted buildings are chosen, while on other occasions the explorers find their way into restricted areas of buildings which are in use.

I have mixed feelings about the whole issue.

On one hand, whatever spin the explorers put on it, they’re trespassing. There’s also the fact that they sometimes put themselves in potential danger, which means emergency crews might end up being called to the scene and ending up in danger.

On the other hand, there are worse things people can do to buildings than enter them without causing damage, explore and document them without causing damage and leave them in exactly the same condition as before.

For as long as urban exploration has been a phenomenon, and certainly for as long as it has been one in Swindon, I have never heard of explorers causing harm.

They have certainly never, for example, been in a position to prevent some historic structure from falling to pieces but failed to do so.

They have never left a place to rot over the course of years or decades of fruitless wrangles over who was responsible for stopping that rot, and they have never delayed the stopping of that rot for reasons which left those who care about our heritage tearing their hair out in frustration and despair.

All of which is more than can be said of certain others.