Police message: Christmas message from Chief Inspector Rob Leet, District Commander for Wealden & Lewes Districts
Christmas time brings many challenges for police officers. I’m sure it won’t surprise you to know that the “season of good will to all” is not always as advertised!
Whilst the county’s night time economy thrives on a succession of office parties in its restaurants, bars and clubs, police officers have to pick up the pieces after a glass or two too many! I remember once being called out to a full scale fisticuffs that had broken out at a Christmas office party and gone badly wrong. A paper plane laden with Christmas pudding, (to balance the trajectory of the flight apparently), found its way slap onto the front of the crisply ironed shirt of an extremely disgruntled recipient! Christmas may be a time for children but these grown men were behaving worse than any children could, never mind the lack of festive good will! Unfortunately we do tend to see an increase in domestic abuse offences during this period. These days the pressures of modern life often means that whole families are not used to spending any length of time together and when they do, it is sometimes an uncomfortable experience. Added to some of the huge financial pressure many people are under, along with a seasonally high in-take of alcohol, the result in some households can be an unhealthy atmosphere of explosive proportions. For some victims the abuse is very often just a continuation of what they suffer all year long. Much of this suffering goes unreported to police and it is an ongoing challenge for us to change that aspect and to reassure victims that we can help them, protect them and put them in touch with the right kind of professionals who can help them to rebuild their lives. If you believe you are a victim of domestic abuse, man or woman, please contact police. Of if you prefer, visit The Portal, at which is run by professionals and explains the options and help available to you. If you know someone who you suspect is a victim of domestic abuse, visit a website called ‘This is not an Excuse’ which has information on spotting the signs and how you can support and help to keep them safe. Throughout the period we run dedicated police patrols, known as Op Ribbon, which will be responding to domestic abuse reports over Christmas and New Year. Officers will be equipped with body-worn video cameras enabling them to capture vital evidence and Independent Domestic Violence Advisors will be working alongside them to ensure the very best support and safeguarding for victims of such abuse. We will also be running dedicated patrols on Lewes’ and Wealden’s roads over the next few weeks to target drivers under the influence of drink and drugs. No matter how much publicity there is out there, a small minority of people still choose to ignore the warnings, risking the lives of others by their dangerous behaviour. The patrols will be operating round the clock, 24 hours 7 days a week, on all our roads both rural and urban, which highlights the importance we place on stopping this behaviour. Indeed, 35 people have already been arrested in the first five days of the campaign! Many people forget that alcohol remains in the body for several hours and that to drive the morning after a night of heavy consumption could easily result in being over the legal limit. The consequence could mean a minimum 12-month disqualification, up to six months imprisonment and a fine of up to £5,000. If there is a collision resulting in death due to dangerous driving while over the limit, you could be looking at a prison sentence of up to 14 years. That is, of course, if the death is not your own! We usually anticipate thefts and burglaries to increase over this period. No doubt, the pressure to spend more on bigger and better presents each year contributes to some “shoppers” stealing instead of buying. Shops tend to be busier at this time which provides more opportunity for shoplifters to lift and bag-dippers to dip! For the burglar….well, he knows that under each Christmas tree is an array of brand new high-tech, highly desirable goods. The dark evenings make it easy to spot when nobody is home and being skilled in taking what doesn’t belong to him, he doesn’t even need a bright star to lead him to riches! So it is really important for everyone to take some simple measures to keep homes and possessions safe. Here are six top tips to do just that. 1) Make it as difficult as possible for criminals to get in to your property. Ensure doors and windows are locked at all times and remember to use the alarm if you have one. 2) Keys, money and phones are a burglar’s dream. Keep anything like that well out of sight and out of reach of doors, windows and letterboxes. Criminals will use rods and sticks to reach through to take bags and keys and use them to get inside. In one third of burglaries, the thief didn’t actually have to break in to get inside the home. 3) If you like to display a Christmas tree near the window, remember to make sure the presents are hidden from prying eyes. Just like anyone else, thieves like to window shop before ‘buying’. Remember to draw curtains and lower blinds. 4) Make your home look occupied by using timer switches on lights and radios so that people think you are in. If you don’t have timers, ask your neighbours to keep an eye out and if you go away, make sure you draw your curtains before you go. 5) Take care when getting rid of packaging the presents came in as empty boxes and full-up bins are a perfect advertisement you may be away, or that there are things worth pinching inside. 6) Record your high value goods by making use of free and secure websites like Immobilise where you can register computers and laptops, mobile phones, bikes, TVs and games consoles, by way of example. Despite the tone of this message overall, please be reassured that Sussex is still one of the safest places to live in England. With an average of just 40 reported crimes per 1000 people living in the districts of Lewes and Wealden, they are among the safest of all. But we continue to strive to make it even safer and I hope the advice in this message will go some way towards doing just that.
CHURCH SERVICES OVER CHRISTMAS: St Mary’s, Westham, have a Crib Service and Craft Making at 3 pm on Dec 24, followed by a Christingle Service at 4 pm. At 11 pm there is a service of Midnight Communion. St Luke’s Church, Stone Cross will be holding a Children’s Crib Service in the church. Midnight Mass will follow at 11.30 pm. There will be a said Mass at 8 am, whilst at 10.30 am there will be a sung Mass (with carols). St Mary’s Church will holding a Family Service at 10 am followed a short Communion Service.
MAY I WISH: All our readers a very Happy Christmas and all health and happiness during 2017.
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