The death of Tia Sharpe was just one murder of a girl or woman in our borough in the past year. LEE WEBSTER highlights a set of crime statistics that should be of grave concern to everyone living and working in Croydon
There has been a 13.4 per cent increase in domestic violence in Croydon in the past year.
Overall, there were more than 6,000 allegations of domestic abuse in Croydon in the past year. And that’s not to mention the many incidents of violence that inevitably go unreported.
Croydon has the highest number of rapes, sexual offences and domestic violence in the whole of London.
But let’s not just focus on numbers. Let’s remember that behind every statistic there’s a person. And that person – most often a woman – could be experiencing rape, sexual violence, mental and physical torture, and coercive or controlling behaviour.
In Croydon in the past year, several women and girls have been killed, the most notorious murder being that of Tia Sharpe. Other women, in pain and fear, are known to have taken their own lives as a result of the abuse they have suffered.
These women and girls are sisters, daughters, wives, mothers, friends. Their deaths are a stain on our town. Let’s remember them, and let us honour their memories by making sure their deaths are not in vain.
Croydon Labour Women’s Forum has been campaigning for almost two years to protect services for women experiencing violence. We’ve been accused of “scaremongering” by Councillor Simon Hoar, and the council insists that their investment in preventing and responding to violence against women has increased.
Yet there is little evidence of that, and given the worrying rise in domestic violence rates, even less evidence of its impact.
The Family Justice Centre, established in 2005 to provide a holistic response to violence against women, has in the past three years lost vital services, including court accompaniment, safety planning, support groups and childcare. The closure of police stations across Croydon will not help, and the promise from the police to “come to your house so you can report crime” is worse than nothing for women who are experiencing crime inside their homes.
The borough police commander is right to condemn the rise in domestic violence and to renew his “zero tolerance approach” to such criminal behaviour. And it is refreshing to hear that the Anti-Violence Board, a joint council and police meeting this Tuesday, will discuss domestic violence and the action that can be taken to combat it. The signs are that the increase in domestic violence is being taken seriously, as it should be.
At a public meeting hosted by Croydon Labour Women’s Forum last week, more than 40 women from around Croydon were asked to prioritise the issues that mattered to them. Addressing violence against women and girls was a recurring theme. The women put together proposals that will be fed into the Labour party’s local election manifesto process.
Among those proposals was a clear vision of a town where people are safe – on the street, on the bus or the tram, at work and school, and in their homes. Let’s face it, that’s the very least we deserve.
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