Domestic abuse cases in Central Bedfordshire “have been more violent and more severe” since the pandemic, a meeting heard.
A 20 per cent increase in domestic abuse has been recorded nationally, although this trend is not reflected locally.
“But what we’ve seen is a real increase in the severity of those cases,” according to Central Bedfordshire Council’s safer communities and partnership manager Lisa Scott.
“What’s happening recently is the victims are coming through to us at quite a late stage,” she explained.
“They’re reporting it when things have got really bad. We want our residents to be empowered to tell us much earlier, enabling them to access support services.
“We’ve seen a 17 per cent increase in domestic abuse, during the last three years.”
This is one of two priority areas locally for the community safety partnership (CSP), CBC’s sustainable communities overview and scrutiny committee was told.
The CSP’s three-year strategy from April was presented to councillors by Ms Scott.
An annual community survey resulted in more than 2,000 resident responses last year, compared to just over 750 the year before.
“Our anti-social behaviour team saw a significant increase in reports of noise and smoke nuisance, which we linked to residents being at home who wouldn’t normally be there during the day,” she said.
Both more than doubled compared to their usual levels.
Another priority area for the CSP is “disruptive county lines drug dealing and cuckooing“, which “have a huge impact” on residents.
“Drug dealing was the main concern mentioned in our survey, in urban and rural areas,” she added.
“It sees our young people being used in dealing drugs and the exploitation of our vulnerable residents in cuckooing.
“This is where a drug dealing gang will take over a person’s home to conduct their criminal activity.
“It’s a real driver to many other issues in our area, not least burglary and vehicle crime.”
Cyber crime is an emerging issue for the CSP, with a 72 per cent increase nationally in victims reporting this during the pandemic, said a report to the committee.
Independent Toddington councillor Mary Walsh referred to nitrous oxide, which “isn’t illegal to use. It’s illegal to sell”, she said.
“Within the rural areas, that’s been highlighted as something going on and causing anti-social behaviour.
“I wonder if there’s some way we can address that.”
Ms Scott replied: “With nitrous oxide you can see the little silver bullets, which they look like, throughout Central Bedfordshire.
“The issue we’ve got is it’s not illegal to use or illegal to buy, which leaves the police and ourselves in a really difficult position on how to deal with them.”
Conservative Arlesey councillor Ian Dalgarno said: “It’s about how we persuade government to intervene on the supply to prevent the bulk purchase of them.
“Generally they buy them online in bulk. There are 20 to 30 canisters. We need to be influencing the government to stop the supply chain.”
The CSP is a partnership made up of five authorities, CBC, the BLMK Clinical Commissioning Group, the National Probation Service, the county police force, and Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.
It has a statutory responsibility to reduce crime and disorder, tackle substance misuse and cut reoffending in Central Bedfordshire.