The rise of violence and sexual offences in Britain’s sunshine coast

To hear Eastbourne is in the top 10 of the UK’s happiest towns may surprise many. To hear this is the case when there is an alarmingly growing rate of violence and sexual offences should surprise many. With the number of violence and sexual offences being doubled in the last two years, it may no longer be tears of joy crawling down the faces of Eastbourne residents.

39 violence and sexual offence cases were reported in January 2017. Eastbourne’s crime map on shows this figure more than doubled as of January 2018 when there were 86 cases reported and this can be seen to have stagnated in 2019 as 77 cases were reported. What qualifies as a violence and sexual offence case?

A violent crime covers a variety of offences ranging from common assault to murder. It also encompasses the use of weapons such as firearms, knives and corrosive substances like acid. Any sexual contact without your consent is considered as sexual assault and is a crime. This includes non-consensual crimes such as rape or sexual assault, crimes against children such as child sexual abuse or grooming, and crimes that exploit others for a sexual purpose whether online or in person.

“The biggest issues recently have been aggressive street drinkers.”

This issue is no minor problem in the sunshine coast. In the last 12 months, from January 2019 to January 2018, violence and sexual cases has been the largest reported crime in the town for nine of the 12 months with the only crime getting reported nearly as much being anti-social behaviour. In the year ending September 2018, the violence and sexual offences crime rate in Eastbourne was much higher than average in the Sussex force area. Only two places in the whole of Sussex being higher: Crawley and Hastings. This means someone is more likely to be the victim of a violent or sexual offence in Eastbourne than they are in Brighton and Hove which has three times the population.

Regrettably, Sussex Police were unable to comment in detail on the situation or put forward their side. Strategy and Partnership Officer Sam Harman said: “Unfortunately we do not have access to the data you’re seeking.” 

From March 2019 to April 2019 there has been a total of 1002 reports of this offence which amasses 28.94% of the total crimes committed in Eastbourne during this period. Anti-social behaviour is the second biggest crime in the town with 903 reports in this period. The third biggest crime in the sunshine coast is shoplifting with 376 reports however the jump seen for this crime is likely to be linked with the completion of the new shopping centre, The Beacon, which contains over 60 shops. Nonetheless, the total for every other crime committed during this time frame is 1,181 which shows the magnitude of the problem with violence and sexual offences in Eastbourne at this current time.

Eastbourne Borough councillor Steve Wallis said: “Estimations are that, given any Friday or Saturday night, there are approximately 2000 people in and around the town centre.” He  added: “There are issues relating to street drinking and alleged drug dealing and use. The biggest issues recently have been aggressive street drinkers.”  

This point Wallis makes can be proven. This is because the number of violence and sexual offences outside bars and clubs in Eastbourne has more than quadrupled in the last two years. In January 2017 there were three cases outside nightclubs in the Devonshire ward whereas there were 13 in 2019. This area contains Eastbourne’s main clubs in Cameo, Embassy and TJ’s as well as several other popular bars and pubs. 12 of these incidents happened outside of Cameo nightclub, however management refused to comment as to why this is.

The sunshine coast is also by far the worst town in East Sussex for violence and sexual cases. To compare, in January 2019 Hastings had 57 cases; Hailsham had 39; Polegate had 14; Lewes had nine; Battle had seven; Newhaven had five and Rye had four. 

Eastbourne officials believe they work closely together in order to prevent crimes but are they doing enough? 

Wallis said: “Eastbourne Borough Council works closely with local businesses via Nightwatch or with organisations such as Street Pastors. We obviously also work closely with the police. We work with the local police on joint initiatives to help keep our street safe. Eastbourne has nearly 100,000 residents and is a major holiday destination with a vibrant nightlife, however there are challenges in ensuring people feel safe on the streets particularly at night.”

This issue can be seen to have peaked to almost triple the original figure in October 2018 when there were 112 cases throughout Eastbourne. How concerned for safety should the local community of Eastbourne be?

To answer this Wallis gave a closing remark. He said: “Be vigilant, if you see a crime report it to the police via 101, or 999 if an emergency. Do not put yourself at risk, enjoy yourself but stay in control. We must all work together to ensure that crime, especially sexual or violent crime, is reduced.”

Violence and sexual offences is something that will likely never be eradicated. However, it is something which can be limited. Prevention and reduction of this crime should be of the utmost importance. It is the leading crime in Eastbourne. It is abhorrent. It is an issue that needs to be addressed. Eastbourne Borough Council claim they have recognised this issue, now local authorities need to face this issue more vigorously in order to retract its growth. If this crime can be doubled within a year then surely it can also be halved in another.

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