Getting to grips with crime in Croydon

By - Thursday 22nd December, 2016

Is Croydon really less safe than other boroughs?

Get a bad reputation and you’ll soon find that shaking it off is a serious challenge. And let’s be honest, Croydon’s reputation isn’t the best.

Once you’re painted with that brush, bad news gets a ‘typical-Croydon’ response, whereas good news gets brushed aside, discounted, especially by those who have never darkened a Croydon doorstep. Turn things around, get a positive reputation, and the reverse applies. I have written about the phenomenon before. It’s called confirmation bias in fancy-talk.

Croydon is also big, one of, perhaps the most populous London borough. We vie with Barnet for top spot, being home to close to four hundred thousand souls. That’s forty thousand more than the two boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham put together.

Body Shop staff who’ve recently moved here feel Croydon is not safe and have stopped after-work drinks

Simple arithmetic means there’s more of pretty much everything in Croydon. Even with half the crime rate, there would still be more crimes in Croydon than in either of our two posher, smaller brethren.

And while we’re on the subject of crime rate, what is the crime rate in Croydon? You may recall the story that Body Shop head office staff whose jobs have recently moved here felt Croydon is not safe and so have stopped after-work drinks, something that was their habit in their former home near London Bridge. Is there any truth in that belief, or is it folklore rather than fact?

The Metropolitan Police publish data, so there’s no need to speculate. What’s the numbers?

When compared to similar areas in Hammersmith and Fulham, Fairfield ward does have a higher crime rate

Taking the twelve months to the end of October 2016, the latest figures that are available, Croydon has just less than four percent of the crime against just shy of 4.4% of the population. Good news – we have a lower crime rate than the average London Borough. This compares to my former home of Hammersmith and Fulham, which with 2.1% of London’s population has close to 2.8% of London’s crime, quite a lot worse than average.

Let’s assume there isn’t any bias in the data (for example Croydon people and Croydon police are no more or less likely to report crime than anywhere else) it could still be that we have pockets of high crime, with our average brought down by low-crime surrounding areas. This does begin to stack up.

Fairfield ward covers Croydon town centre. When compared to similar areas in Hammersmith and Fulham such as Hammersmith Broadway and Shepherds Bush Green, it does have a higher crime rate. For example, criminal damage at 23.5 and violence against the person at 87.5 per thousand head of population respectively compare with 12.4 and 56.4 respectively in Hammersmith Broadway and 12.6 and 83.7 in Shepherd’s Bush Green.

Our new borough commander has an excellent track record in Bexley and he lives in Croydon

Compare this with the 5.9 and 9.9 in Sanderstead, which puts this Croydon ward up there with the safest wards in London and we see the pattern. Large parts of Croydon are as safe as anywhere in London but our town centre is not. It is far from the worst, but we should aim to be the best.

With the extensive development work this isn’t going to be easy. It may even get worse before it gets better, but its success is critical to making the most of the opportunities we have in front of us.

This is the task for our new Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Jeff Boothe and his team. The town centre is a priority. How to address it is an issue not only for the police. This requires teamwork. Croydon Council, business owners and we the public have a role to play.

The police get criticised for a lack of resources on a Saturday night, then get criticised for a heavy police presence intimidating and provoking clubbers. Getting everyone on board with his approach so that this kind of rock-and-a-hard-place situation is resolved and crime reduced is crucial.

Now that our new Borough Commander is in place I hope that familiarising himself with the issues and formulating a plan is how he his spending a day. His track record in Bexley is excellent and he even lives in our borough. This is cause for optimism. Those Body Shop employees, the staff of companies who will follow them, and we – the long term residents of Croydon – are all behind him.

Robert Ward

Robert Ward

Engineer and project manager specialised in helping businesses make better strategic decisions and improve safety, quality and effectiveness. Conservative Party Councillor representing Selsdon and Addington Village on Croydon Council. He tweets as @moguloilman.

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  • Sean Creighton

    Thanks for this piece. There is good and bad news in the statistics: lots of categories down on last year but up are violence and robbery against the person, sexual, and guns. One of my first forays into Croydon affairs was to try and drill down into the published and unpublished statistics to get a much better understanding, otherwise all that happens is responses to the superficial overview. Needless to say I got nowhere. I have raised the matter from time to time, inc. in my submissions to the Opportunity and Fairness Commission. Due to the Commission’s website having been taken down – which is being looked into – that submission is no longer publicly available. I am also trying to get details of crime against the Council through Freedom of Information requests. I suspect that lack of having any systems to check this across what is a complex organisation will mean that I will be told it costs too much to put the information together.