Who in Devizes has been upsetting the local gutter press now?! Detached from a relatively good idea, Wiltshire 999’s, a blog which once reported current crimes and police matters, a tabloid version called Wiltshire Live has risen like a phoenix from the ashes, most likely to prove more profitable.
With their Facebook page constantly phishing for personal info, it publishes regular slapdash magazine style articles gaining popularity as it trundles. Unlike the historically founded Newsquest group which publishes newspapers such as the Swindon Advertiser and Gazette & Herald, without the restraints of mainstream journalism it is able to deliver some shock tactical pieces, it seems with a penchant for highlighting Devizes as a pretty dire place to live.
Reactionary it maybe, every angry click appeases its advertisers, I’m sure many Devizes residents have seen yesterday’s posts on local Facebook pages by the journalist herself, which states out of 22 areas of Wiltshire, measured by a crime-rate map, designed by an independent website, Devizes has the “greatest spread of crime out of all of the Wiltshire’s areas included in this database.”
Gut reaction to this is understandably to deny it, be shocked and exasperated, because we live here and we love it, and we walk around feeling relatively safe. Those who have lived elsewhere perhaps even more aware Devizes is not Wiltshire’s answer to Mexico’s Tijuana, where approximately seven people are murdered daily, yet neither is Wiltshire Live making it out to be. It does clearly state the county is in the top ten safest places in the country, already knocking some severity off the claim.
Originally then I determined to scrutinise this “crime-map,” ready to criticise the website for defamatory claims on Devizes, but hey-ho, story checks out; miserably, Devizes does score highest, but only in the way the reporter was reading it. Starter for ten, the “crime map” runs on quantity against population percentage, so effectively an all-out bloodthirsty massacre scores a point, equally does a Parkinson’s sufferer caught with a spliff in his own garden, or a chancing teenager pinching a porkpie from Morrisons.
There is no judgement on the severity of the crime, then, only that it was reported. Again, in Wiltshire Live’s defence, it does say it’s, “vital to consider, is that many crimes sadly go unreported, making statistics like these never 100% accurate,” ergo, if Devizes currently has the greatest spread of crime out of all of the Wiltshire’s areas included in this database, something failed to mention is that Devizes also has a knack of reporting incidents, and that’s surely the mainstay to solving and counteracting them, rather then, ha, you know, just reporting scare stories for hits; correct me if I’m wrong.
So, reading the data differently, Devizes has 988 reported crimes, against Swindon’s 11,503, Salisbury’s 3,177 and even Melksham, with a similar population, weighs in greater than Devizes, with 1,064. Much as I’d liked to have changed my angle on this story, and defend Wiltshire Live, today I find another, separate story, saying “police are investigating a new TikTok trend called ‘heartbeat challenge’ – where kids play loud music outside a house and kick the front door in time to the beat.” While this is obviously happening nationally if not internationally, Wiltshire Live informs “houses in Wiltshire have been targeted,” and then adds the cliff-hanger, “including a home in Devizes.” One has to wonder why Devizes has been singled out, named and shamed, when homes across the county have been hit by the appalling prank.
The issue I have is, running scare stories for clickbait like this is counterproductive against suggesting methods to help reduce crime, it only exists to sensationalise, in my honest opinion. Because an article like this is followed by many not bothered to read it fully, consequently resulting in a bombardment of social media comments like Chinese whispers. The article is shabby, given another six months another small town could top our terrible statistic, in journalistic jargon “it’s got legs,” yet not through content, rather the social media storm in a teacup it’ll no doubt cause.
Firstly, to face the blame game is the young, obviously. Too wrapped up with other social media sites to defend themselves on “fogie” Facebook, it’s fair to say many a petty crime is caused by younger people, bored with nothing better to be doing, because playgrounds are in state of disrepair, activities and social clubs have been axed or underfunded, and they’re set an example by a lying, lawbreaking government set to increase the rate of criminal activity in order to make themselves look better. In times of discontent crime rates rise as a consequence, history proves this.
Let’s look at the most serious of crimes, taking another’s life. In Devizes last year we had an arson attack, police arrested a man on suspicion of murder, who was twenty. Karl Quincey was 35 when he was convicted of killing Barry Cooper in 2008. Michael Chudley was 63 when he shot James Ward in the head with a sawn-off shotgun in 2013. None of them best described as “young,” unless you’re Bill Wyman. Even ancient murderers in Devizes disproves this banal theory, The Devizes Petticoat Murder, Benjamin Purnell was 51 when he was charged with the wilful murder of his wife, Emily, in 1889.
One commenter duly noted out of the 988 reported crimes, 978 were bike theft, to receive a plethora of amused emojis in response, although according to the crimerate website, and despite a known spate of bike theft, it’s not true. Rather, more shockingly “The most common crimes in Devizes are violence and sexual offences, with 457 offences during 2020, giving a crime rate of 39. This is 10% higher than 2019’s figure of 411 offences and a difference of 3.95 from 2019’s crime rate of 35. Devizes’s least common crime is robbery, with 5 offences recorded in 2020, a decrease of 80% from 2019’s figure of 9 crimes.”
So, there is a decrease in there, failed to be mentioned in the article. But whoa, sexual offences are on the increase, in all parts of the county. This, in a week when scare stories about drink “spiking” in clubland rolled mainstream media, young girls suggesting they don’t bother going out anymore due to the danger of drugs being either put in drinks or even injected when in close proximity. In running an entertainment guide, I want to encourage people to go out, but to enjoy themselves, yet I’m in the dark here, not been “clubbing” since……well, I’m not intending to disclose how long!
Therefore, it was deeply concerning to of read this trend, and I’ve contacted both Devizes Police and The Exchange nightclub in Devizes for their thoughts, on what they’re doing to best prevent this, and what to do if you think you’ve been spiked. Most of all, I was interested to know how common this was in Devizes, because, and I even said this, even though incidents have been reported in Salisbury and Swindon, I felt clubbers here were less likely to be victims, because Devizes was far safer. And I still believe it is, despite this damming report.
Should I change my angle on this too, I wonder, and go with on premise set out by Wiltshire Live, that you’re statistically more likely to be a victim in Devizes than any other small town in Wiltshire, as I would hate to think I’ve projected the notion it’s not something to worry too much about, provided you take the precautions set out by those organisations I contacted? Who knows, because I’m still awaiting replies from both the Exchange and Police. A shame if they feel it superfluous to respond, when you’d think it’s a message in their benefit to get out.
Hold the front page, I plead with both organisations to reply, so we can advise how to avoid such terrible incidents, because I’m not writing this shit for prestige or cold cash, I’m writing from the heart, and care not if you wish to advertise your business here, or if this gets sufficient hits for Word Ads.
Furthermore, if you’ve been affected by a sexual offence like being spiked, in Devizes, and feel you’ve some advice to give others, please do contact us, your anonymity will be respected.
I’ll say it how it is, thank you, and it is that Devizes is no more dangerous than any other Wiltshire market town, in my opinion, based on wandering around at night hunting gigs and cider! It is disheartening to hear crime is on the increase, yet I strongly suspect this is true nationwide, and I bid while you take care out there, not to rise to the bait and fear for your safety in such a great place to live.
There, given my tuppence, for what it’s worth, can I have my tea now?!
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