Issue 40 — February 1998
Fresh wave of vandalism
Jericho seems to be going through another wave of car crime and vandalism.
Residents have become increasingly concerned at the number of cars with smashed windows - particularly those parked at the top of Great Clarendon Street.
This trend is confirmed by figures issued by the police. Thefts from cars in Jericho more than doubled last year. Comparing the period January to November 1997 with the same period for 1996, the number of reported thefts from cars increased from 40 to 92.
Not all the crime news is bad. Burglaries from houses fell from 83 to 53 over this period, and from businesses from 27 to 20, while the number of violent incidents also fell, from 17 to 11. And the number of cars stolen in Jericho also fell, from 31 to 17. Nevertheless we still have one of the highest crime rates in the city.
Are the criminals being caught? Very few. The detection rate tends to be highest for crimes of violence (73%), but the rates are much lower for household burglaries (21%) car theft (11%). And when it comes to theft from cars, scarcely anyone is caught at all.
Oxford's Police Area Commander, Superintendent Cressida Dick, responded to Jericho residents' concerns at a recent meeting in the Community Centre. She said that the vast majority of serious crimes, particularly those concerned with vehicles, are committed by people feeding drug habits, and she said that the reduction in burglaries probably reflects the police's targeting of known offenders. But there have been fewer successes with car break-ins - a surveillance operation in Great Clarendon Street did not catch anyone in the act.
These problems have also been deterring visitors. People who have signed up for classes at the Community Centre are increasingly reluctant to come in their cars for fear of what will happen to them - not just theft but also childish vandalism such as scratching the paintwork or removing windscreen wipers.
In addition to the more serious crimes, people are also having problems with noisy and aggressive young people in the streets. Residents of Castle Mill House at the bottom of Juxon Street are having a particularly hard time. Gangs of young boys hang around in the stairwells. They regularly break lights and have vandalized cars in the car park. Lifts are a favourite target - the children frequently jam the buttons or smash the lights, and urinate in the lifts or cover them with graffiti. They also call out aggressively to people coming and going - fun if you are 12 or 14 years old, not so pleasant for older people.
Some of the problems seem to arise because young people have little else to do. Facilities for teenagers in Jericho are pretty limited. This is a small area that cannot really support a youth club. There is a weekly youth group for 8-12 year-olds but nothing for the older children. Steve Nyman of the city's Youth and Community Service says that in fact many young people from Jericho attend centres outside the area. But he also emphasizes that the vast majority of young people are responsible and well-behaved. The problems tend to come and go in waves, usually associated with one or two individuals.
Recently there has been little evidence of police on the streets, since we have had to share a beat officer, PC Vockins, with Park Town. But that is about to change. The police are currently selecting a new beat officer specifically for Jericho and he or she should appear within the next month or two.
Residents argue that it's not worth reporting incidents because perpetrators will be gone by the time the police show up. Superintendent Dick agrees that response times are longer for non-violent incidents, but asks that we do report everything so they know about the problems. She also urged people to join Neighbourhood Watch schemes. Currently we only have two groups - in Great Clarendon Street and St. Barnabas Street. As always, one of the most effective deterrents to crime and vandalism is an alert and determined community.