Those who follow these pages and who see my campaigning posts on social media will know I have been raising concerns about the alarmingly high numbers of rape and other sexual offences committed in Thanet. Any number is too high, but Thanet is the worst area in Kent (excluding Medway), with 500 reported sex crimes last year.
As part of my campaign to raise awareness of the issues and to make our streets safer, I have been in regular contact with Thanet South MP, Craig Mackinlay, successfully pushing for action over street lighting that had been turned off as part of the Conservative cuts at Kent County Council. I have also requested that Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Scott takes a closer look at the sex crime figures to determine whether Thanet has an isolated problem.
Local media has picked up the story and the following text was published by KentLive on February 28. The original article can be read on the KentLive site.
Call for action after Thanet is revealed as having the highest number of sex crimes in Kent
By KathyBailes | Posted: February 28, 2017
A call to make clearer the number of sexual offences reported in Thanet has been made by MP Craig Mackinlay.
The South Thanet MP says he will be speaking to the Kent Police area commander and the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner to raise the issue of ‘worrying’ statistics for the isle.
A Freedom of Information request made by Mr Mackinlay has revealed that Thanet had the highest number of reported sexual offences in Kent during 2016.
In 2016, Thanet had on average of 3.58 offences per 1,000 people. This compares to a county average of 2.53 offences per 1,000 people.
The lowest rate in the county was in Sevenoaks with 1.62 offences per 1,000 people. Across the county the East Division comprising of: Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Shepway and Thanet had an average of 2.82 offences per 1,000 population.
The North Division comprising of Dartford, Gravesham, Medway and Swale had an average of 2.79 offences per 1,000 population. The West Division comprising of Maidstone, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Malling and Tunbridge Wells had an average of 2.52 offences per 1,000 population.
500 reported sex crimes
Broken down by offence the figures show 500 sexual offences crimes reported in Thanet last year, the highest in Kent (excluding Medway).
Of these 171 were identified as rape or unlawful intercourse accusations, 43 as offences against children; seven cases of grooming; 23 of obscene publications; 220 classed simply as sexual offences and 36 as controlling or coercive behaviour.
Isle rape reports were the highest in Kent.
Just 32 offences reported in Thanet resulted in a charge last year.
Eight of those were for rape/unlawful intercourse; 7 for child sex offences; 9 listed as simply sexual offences; 6 controlling/coercive behaviour and 2 for obscene publications.
Mr Mackinlay said: “It is worrying to see that Thanet has the highest number of reported sexual offences in Kent. The raw data received makes interpretation difficult: do we have an underlying problem or are other areas facing an under-reporting issue? These are questions that I will now put to the Area Commander and I will also make sure that the Police and Crime Commissioner is made fully aware of the figures. I need to ensure that residents feel safe in Thanet.”
The Freedom of Information request follows local pressure for a more local Sexual Offences Referral Centre (SARC) as Maidstone is the closest offering such services in Kent.
The call to examine the figures and look at the way victims of sexual crime are treated has also been made by Ramsgate councillor Karen Constantine.
She said: “This is not just about the figures. It is also about making sure that where there are sexual crime victims that we have sufficient police staffing to follow the proper protocol, such as sending a woman officer to a woman victim and having officers with proper training. At the moment that is not always able to happen because the police are under-staffed.
“We have the highest rate of sexual offences in Kent but we do not have the highest standard of policing because of cuts when really it should be of the best standard to protect victims and to deter crime. We already know the best support and policing processes to use and we should call for adequate funding to implement them.”
Cllr Constantine has been in touch with Mr Mackinlay and PCC Matthew Scott about the issue. She originally raised it when there were concerns that the lack of night lighting in Ramsgate was contributing towards crime and now says the figures should be analysed thoroughly to make sure Thanet isn’t suffering an isolated problem.
She said: “I alerted Craig Mackinlay to a problem in respect of unlit streets in October. A heinous stranger rape was committed on his own street. He agreed the lack of street lighting could have played a part. Since then I have alerted him to three more episodes of the same type of crime.”
Cllr Constantine said she is demanding immediate improvements to gain support for victims and to ensure a better conviction rate
The nearest dedicated centre for victims of rape and serious sexual offences is Beech House, the Kent and Medway Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), in Maidstone.
Beech House offers free, confidential support and practical help to victims.
Victims wishing to report a rape or ask for advice should phone Kent Police on 101, or 999 if a crime is in progress.
People who do not wish to report an incident to police can contact Beech House direct by phoning 01622 726461 or the centre’s free number, 0800 133 7432.