Rises in violent crimes and sex offences across Waveney

Domestic violence

Domestic violence is said to be behind big rises in violent and sex offences in Suffolk. - Credit: Getty Images

Significant rises in violent crimes and sex offences are being seen across Waveney, as a police chief vows to take action.

There has been a big increase in crimes involving violence and sexual offending in the Lowestoft and Beccles and Bungay policing areas.

According to figures from police.uk - which publishes Home Office data - there have been 9,904 incidents of violence and sexual offences in Lowestoft and 1,691 incidents in Beccles and Bungay over the past three years - between April 2019 to February 2022.

The online tool reveals there were 3,885 violence and sexual offences reported in the space of 12 months - between March 2021 and February 2022 - equating to 41.1pc of all crimes in the Lowestoft neighbourhood area.

In Beccles and Bungay, there were 687 violence and sexual offences between March 2021 and February 2022 - equating to 40.5pc of all crimes.

Over the last three years in East Suffolk, there were 20,927 violence and sexual offences reported - which equates to 40pc of all crimes.

With violence and sexual offences covering 57 separate crimes - ranging from murder and rape to death by dangerous driving and modern slavery - Suffolk police said ‘behind closed doors’ crimes like domestic violence "are some of the most complex that are tackled".

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It comes as a vital service that helps victims of domestic abuse rebuild their lives is now at risk of closure after it lost more than £30,000 in crucial funding.

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Support staff at the Waveney Domestic Violence and Abuse Forum.

Support staff at the Waveney Domestic Violence and Abuse Forum. Christine Topper, Chair of Trustees, Irina Hodkinson and Hayley Hodger, Advice and Guidance. - Credit: Brittany Woodman

The Waveney Domestic Violence and Abuse Forum, based at the Kirkley Centre in Lowestoft, has supported thousands of survivors from across the district over the last four decades.

The Kirkley Centre in Lowestoft.

The Kirkley Centre in Lowestoft. - Credit: Brittany Woodman

But the charity has had to close its waiting list as it searches for £30,000 in funding to continue to operate.

According to the forum, in the first 11 weeks of this year - up until March 15 - police have already recorded 456 incidents of domestic violence in East Suffolk.

The total overall figure for domestic violence in East Suffolk has risen from 2,043 incidents in 2019, to 2,172 incidents in 2020 and then up to 2,267 incidents last year.

Area Commander for the East, Supt. Matt Carney said: “It is important to remember that crime statistics don’t give the full picture of a local policing service and overall Suffolk remains a safe county to live and work.

"Our officers and teams work hard to keep the public safe and we prioritise giving a high level of service to those who become victims of crime.

Area Commander for the East, Supt. Matt Carney.

Area Commander for the East, Supt. Matt Carney. - Credit: Suffolk Police

“In the majority of cases the reports of violent and sexual offences the victim and perpetrator are frequently known to each other.

“All reports of a domestic or sexual nature are given a priority response and the ‘hidden harm’ investigations are some of the most complex that are tackled as by their very nature they tend to occur behind closed doors.

"This provides challenges to evidence collection that do not exist in many other areas of criminal investigation."

Supt. Carney added: "Investments in training, the use of forensic science and technology are ensuring that investigations are carried out to a high standard.

“We also work closely with other organisations to provide help and support to DA victims and work closely with the Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) who are funded by the PCC."

Suffolk Constabulary has trained more than 800 officers and staff across the county "in recognising and dealing with domestic abuse", with a particular focus on coercion and control.

Supt. Carney said: “Our commitment to violent crime is demonstrated by the investment in our proactive Sentinel teams based across the county who tackle serious and organised criminal activity, much of which is linked to drug trafficking offences.

"Additionally, we have our Serious Crime Disruption Teams, Operation Scorpion teams who tackle drug and related criminality and Kestrel teams who dynamically deploy into a particular area for a period of time to support local policing priorities and deal with serious criminality.

"Residents should be reassured we are always on the front foot, taking positive action."

Reaction

Charity manager at the Waveney Domestic Violence and Abuse Forum, Irina Hodkinson, said: "From the figures we have received from the police to show the number of reported domestic violence cases year on year, in East Suffolk - from 2019 to 2022 - these figures show about a 4pc increase.

Irina Hodkinson, manager of the Waveney Domestic Violence and Abuse Forum.

Irina Hodkinson, manager of the Waveney Domestic Violence and Abuse Forum. - Credit: Brittany Woodman

"We know from experience that abusers usually work from home and when this time increases coupled with economic hardship and fewer means of escape or contact with the outside world, for victims it can become more difficult.

"We find that perpetrators are extremely skilled at convincing victims their actions are normal, that it is the victim's fault and no one else would want to be with them.

"We know that during the last year only 47pc of our clients reported police involvement, however the complexity of cases has increased.

"We believe increased awareness of domestic abuse is having an impact and thankfully good support is available locally and nationally for victims to come forward to report abuse.

"When this is finished and they want to rebuild their lives to recover from trauma it is currently very difficult to access therapy locally in in our region.

Irina Hodkinson, manager of the Waveney Domestic Violence and Abuse Forum.

Irina Hodkinson, manager of the Waveney Domestic Violence and Abuse Forum. - Credit: Brittany Woodman

"This is why I believe referrals for this particular service have increased so much.

"The number of clients referred to us for Trauma Therapy has increased significantly. We used to have waiting lists of about 30 clients at any time, currently this is 65 - more than a 50 per cent increase.

"We have had to close the waiting list but are still receiving almost daily referrals.

"Helplines reported increased activity post lockdown and increased e-mail and chat contact."

Sending out an important message to sufferers, Ms Hodkinson added: "Abuse is not your fault, its wrong, help is available, you are good enough and there are people who will help you.

"It is however essential to be able offer a full pathway to support recovery which allows victims to overcome ‘the demons’ of abuse and rebuild their lives."

Case studies

One domestic abuse survivor - a woman in her 50s - has hailed the impact that The Waveney Domestic Violence and Abuse Forum has had on her life.

She said: "When I first came I was overwhelmed by fear of my ex I was very angry, flashbacks, scared and negative.

"I feel like a completely different person - am more confident, positive and I respect and value myself more.

"I’m in control of my life again.

"I'm amazed and so grateful this therapy has been life changing."

Another, a mother in her mid 30s, said she had suffered domestic abuse for seven years.

She admitted: "I was left traumatised and would suffer daily flashbacks of all the abuse.

"After the divorce had finished, I carried on getting flashbacks - I wanted to understand why I was abused and try to understand him and why he did what he did.

"I stumbled across the Waveney Domestic Violence and Abuse website - and now, I know I am not alone.

"All I can say is 'wow' - in a year I have come so far.

"This company has really changed me for the better and has also given me tools to deal with my future and my daughters future."

Figures elsewhere

Domestic abuse now makes up one in four of all crimes investigated by Norfolk police, with the fastest rising rates in Norwich and Great Yarmouth.

However every local authority area is seeing more violent and sexual offences with reported offences up 12pc to 3,522 in South Norfolk, 1,704 above the average since 2017.

Nearby, Broadland was the only area to see a fall in 2021 with 106 fewer crimes than the 3,300 in 2020, but that was still 1,272 more than the average since 2017.

To donate to the charity visit the Waveney Domestic Violence and Abuse Forum's official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/waveneydaforum

Any easyfundraising page has also been set up, allowing people to support the charity while shopping online.

Visit www.easyfundraising.org.uk/causes/waveneydomesticviolenceandabuseforum

To get support or advice from the Forum, call 01502 572 143 or 07906 245 979 or email info@waveneydvforum.org.uk