Countywide Halloween Pranksters and General Crime Rates Sets “Wiltshire Live” to Unfairly Roast Devizes

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.

Tranquil Devizes, photographed yesterday!

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.

Devizes at its best; proper job fantastic!

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?!


Trending….

A Local Look at Knife Crime

Navigating my footing becoming trickier as guy-ropes criss-crossed my path midst the shadowy maze of tents, still I chased. For reasoning I need not go into, the pursued managed to grab two twenty-pound notes from my wallet, one of which I snatched back, the other he made off with. The fleeting moment had gone from bad to worse, at this huge, anarchic festival. Now I was alone, chasing this kid. He had encouraged me not to follow, threatened to “carve me up.” I doubted his word; “carve me up,” over a score?

The notion arrived at my frontal lobe when he abandoned escape, turned to flash a blade at me. It only registered once I was an inch away, and he took a swing with the knife, then, thankfully, I took heed of common sense; wasn’t worth twenty quid. I backed off; he ran. He got a note off me; sucks, but I kept my life.

Reminiscing this feels like a movie, you know, where the hero escapes with seconds to spare; utterly thoughtless to have taken it that far, there’s no reruns in real life, no alternative ending. I find myself contemplating the what ifs, in this era where knife crime is rife, so the media informs us. I stagger at the whole stupidity of it, worry for youth, in times of desperation, economic slump, taking to the streets armed is a sad reality.

To those who adopt this philosophy, look at my pitiful example of yore; you’re not a “playa,” not doing anything fresh, nothing gallant or outrageous, zilch “gangsta” pal, just foolhardiness you cannot, and will not see as such until you get wise, or on a hospital bed.

Least, I speculate, should think ourselves lucky in Wiltshire, where by comparison I believe the chances of being a victim of knife crime is way less. But how much less, and is it on the increase? What would happen to me if I was caught with a knife in Wiltshire? I thought I’d hassle Wiltshire Police’s PC Paul Woodbridge for answers. If you do take a knife out to play, maybe you couldn’t care less what the police have to say. Yeah, alright, you’re free to skip the interview part, but I beg you scroll to the conclusion under the line.

Now, the Salisbury Journal reported in January that Wiltshire is bucking the trend of increasing knife crime, and ours has gone down recently, The Swindon Advertiser ran a similar article, but back in April last year it reported precisely the opposite: “Stats show Wiltshire knife crime up 214 per cent in five years.” So, after an increase, it seems the rate is dropping locally. I asked Paul how this reflects on the knowledges of the police on the streets?

“I’m not sure where your stats come from but you may be referring to some PA figures released recently which show a hike between 2013 and 2018,” he explained. “If that’s the case then the explanation is that our recording of knife crimes has improved in that time along with more people coming forward to report such crimes, thanks to the increased publicity around this issue. Overall, our knife crime figures show Wiltshire is a safe place to live; the statistics show knife crime has dropped by 18% across the county in the past year (Sept ’17 to Sept ’18) but we won’t ever rest on our laurels, and will firmly deal with anyone who we find carrying a knife.”

knife3.jpg

The assumption is violent crime, particularly knife-crime is predominantly a city problem, how much better does our market towns like Devizes, Marlborough and Melksham compare to our larger towns and cities, like Salisbury and Swindon? “By the nature of population sizes,” PC Woodbridge clarified, “and generally speaking, smaller towns do not experience the same extent of crimes as larger towns and cities.”

Yet though I’ve been planning this article for a while now, only this morning a post on a Devizes Facebook group claimed their son was attacked by youth with a knife, and was cut across the face.

What would PC Woodbridge advise if you’re threatened with a knife? Or is this a no-brainer; I mean, I’d run, right? But what if you’re cornered? Does he think self-defence classes are a good thing? “As you said, the best advice is always to run and get help.” He continued, “get somewhere public where lots of people are, if possible, and call the police on 999. Self-defence classes are down to personal preference, but I would always look to put as much distance between me and the knife as I could.”

I wanted to gage PC Woodbridge on the wonky ethos of carrying a knife for protection, what would he say to those who do? “Statistics show that that those who carry knives are much more likely to be injured than those who don’t. Carrying a knife does not make someone safer and you will be arrested if caught with an illegal knife and not a good reason to be carrying it. You could then face time in prison.”

knife4

What about armistice in a town like Devizes? What would happen to you, what would be the process if you walked into the police station and handed over a knife? PC Woodbridge explained, “if you were to hand in a knife then we would take your details and provided there had been no offences committed, then it would be disposed of. Don’t forget in September last year we had a countywide knife amnesty as part of Wiltshire Police’s knife crime campaign, Op Sceptre, where up to 500 knives were handed in to police stations across the county and disposed of safely. We will plan other amnesties in the future.”

I asked him, what else can we do to raise awareness and promote knife crime safety? “Information and education are paramount. Our recent Op Sceptre campaign has been very successful. During a week earlier in March, we spoke to people and gave out leaflets to underline the message: ‘No knife, safer life.’ We also do a large social media and media campaign. Search for ‘Op Sceptre’ to see what was covered.”

“Op Sceptre may be over for now,” PC Woodbridge continued, “but our work doesn’t stop, we’re never complacent about knife crime and I want to remind everyone that we will respond to any intelligence and information given to us by the public; knife crime can affect anyone. We also continue working with schools and colleges to keep the safety and educational messages in the public domain.”

knife2
Wiltshire Police Website


 

So, that’s what the police said, but with all due respect to PC Woodbridge, and though I’m grateful for his time, I’d wager the ones we really need to reach out to have skipped past this, don’t care for the what the police have to say. So, I reply, okay, fair enough, for now, to hell with the police, it’s just me and you here talking, right? I don’t write like the standard press, out to make money. Readers expect an honest review, so I write from the heart. Take the start of this piece for example, journalists never open on a real personal incident, okay?

I know, understand and appreciate the world may’ve dealt you a shit card. Maybe your folks did a shit job at being parents, maybe you reckon this government are selfish, backstabbing bastards, and I’d say, yeah, you’re right, mate. Must be loads guilty for how crap your life is; but the thing is, it doesn’t matter who you’d like to point the finger to, when you choose to go out and take a knife, no one is to blame in that instance, but YOU.

It is your decision. If a government doesn’t want anarchy through poverty, why would it apply pressure through consistent service and educational cuts, when the magic money tree exists? I don’t know; maybe because it’s hidden in a walled garden. They pick it for funding war, bailing themselves out by buying votes, and lavish luncheons. I swear, it’s what they want you to do, takes the pressure off them. Channel your anger at them, see? By taking a knife to some kid who maybe dissed you out of tenner, may be shagging your girlfriend, or not paid you for that eighth, taking your frustration out on any Joe Bloggs, you’re playing into their hand. I’d even go as far as saying, alright, we live in the real world; bods mug each other off, and if so, if has to come to it, take it out with fisticuffs.

The vicious cycle is that you take out a knife, and they need to take out a knife, and she needs to take out a knife and everyone’s taking out a fucking knife. Break that cycle, or, simply, someone is going to get killed, if not you, them, but shit, you’re still gonna do time for it. That is pointless and damn right stupid.

Thank you to PC Woodbridge for his valuable time, I’m not one to say if this will make everyone stop and think about it, but if just one does, that’s one life saved.

 

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