BVR Theme: Criminal Damage
Criminal damage (CD) is an offence created by the Criminal Damage Act
1971. The definition of the offence is “Without lawful excuse, intentionally or
recklessly to cause damage to another‟s property”.
1.1 This paper outlines the scale of criminal damage, the priority given to
the issue and efforts to tackle locally and on the wider stage nationally.
The challenge for the future is considered with recommendations for
1.2 In addition, through the consideration of the 4Cs of Best Value, this
paper assesses our current approach to tackling criminal damage (CD)
with regard to current and planned future activities. Furthermore, it
identifies key issues that we face, and provides options to improve our
approach in the future.
2.0 National Context
2.1 The Criminal Damage Act 1971 consolidated other Acts and
succeeded in being all encompassing. The legal definition of CD is
clear but individuals have their own interpretation. This paper uses the
term CD in its widest meaning as defined by the above legal definition.
2.2 CD includes the destruction or damage of any property that could
involve a cost in its rectification or replacement. For example letting the
air out of a car tyre, this could involve the cost of calling out a
mechanic; running across a flower bed and flattening plants could incur
cost as could overturning litter bins.
2.3 According to the British Crime Survey (BCS) 2004/5 there were
2,564,000 offences of vandalism against private property reported
nationally. Of these 1,564,000 were against vehicles and 1,001,000
against other private property, such as dwelling or surrounding
property. Under a third of these incidents were reported to the police
(32%) (Home Office Statistical Bulletin 11/05)
2.4 National recorded crime figures indicate that there was a two percent
fall in total criminal damage between 2003/4 and 2004/5.
2.5 Some confusion may arise as to what constitutes CD and this can be
illustrated by the differing police and fire services interpretations. If the
cause of a fire is thought to be non-accidental then both the police and
fire record it. However, with the different definitions the majority of
deliberate fire setting dealt with by the fire service does not feature in
police recorded crime figures. In 2002/03 the fire service nationally
recorded 108,000 deliberate fires whilst the police recorded 53,200,
less than one half (ODPM report Arson Terminology; June 2005 page
3.0 Local Context
3.1 The police have recorded an increase in CD offences in the borough
every year from 1997 to 2004; however, in 2004/05 they recorded a
reduction. The reason for the reduction is not known. After seven years
steady increase any reduction is notable as no other local authority
area in the county has recorded a CD reduction. (Kent Police Business
3.2 Whilst noting the volume of the crime which impacts on crime figures
there is also a great impact on perceptions. CD is most often a visible
and very noticeable crime. Domestic Burglary or car theft could
increase dramatically and have no visible consequence. No research
has been conducted locally as to the effect of the level of CD on the
public‟s fear of crime or perception of an area.
The table below demonstrates the increase in the offence of CD in the
borough and the increase of CD as a percentage of total crime in the borough
Year Recorded CD in the borough CD as % of total crime
1997 / 98 883 5.58
1998 / 99 976 14.83
1999 / 00 1124 19.90
2000 / 01 1250 21.00
2001 / 02 1399 21.00
2002 / 03 1615 21.80
2003 / 04 1861 24.98
2004 / 05 1784 24.95
All data supplied by Kent Police Business Information Unit
3.3 The significant and temporal increase in CD in the borough is not
consistent geographically. During the three-year period 2001 to 2004
two of the Tonbridge town centre wards experienced significant
increases, Castle ward +88% (89 to 168 offences) and Vauxhall ward
+75% (45 to 79 offences). However, the following rural wards recorded
reductions Blue Bell Hill (-38%); Aylesford (-38%); East Peckham
(-29%); Snodland East (-28%); Larkfield South (-8%). (Kent Police
Business Information Unit)
3.4 CD becomes police recorded data when victims report an incident to
them, they interpret from the information and circumstances what
category of offence has been committed and a crime number is issued.
Recorded crime is only an indication of the actual level of crime.
3.5 One reason for the increase in the level of recorded CD is the change
in Home Office guidance to the police as to the criteria for recording.
The major change in 1997 was that “continuing offences“ would as of
April 1998 be recorded as individual offences not one. This is best
explained by an example:
“A row of ten parked cars are scratched with a key.” This would have
been recorded as one continuing offence in 1997 but became
recordable as ten offences from 1998.
3.6 This creates more realistic and useful data that enables better
assessment of the problem but it also creates the impression that CD
has increased dramatically. Another distortion is the effect of inflation
on the cost of repairs to property. Even minor damage can be
expensive to repair and it becomes more likely that the crime will be
reported to the police to enable an insurance claim to be made.
3.7 CD has accounted for approximately 1 in 4 recorded offences in the
borough for the past five years and it is the largest single category of
crime. It has therefore been identified as a priority for reduction in the
CDRP Strategic Plan 2005 –08. A reduction target of 15% has been
set for this period. This is part of the 10% reduction in Comparator
Crime agreed for the three year period under the LAA.
3.8 CD is one of the six crimes identified by the BCS as being of most
concern to the public which the Home Office call “ Comparator crimes”
They are CD, Wounding, Domestic Burglary, Robbery, Common
Assault and Theft of Motor Vehicle.
3.9 Each CDRP in England and Wales was required to set reduction
targets in respect of comparator crime for the three years 2005 to 2008.
The Government obviously has an interest in tackling the crimes that
most concern the public. The level of reduction for each CDRP was
based upon past performance with the best being set the lowest target,
10% - 12% and the worst the highest target 20%- 25%. TMBC have an
agreed target of 10 %. This in itself helps to put the borough‟s level of
crime, (including CD) and performance of the CDRP into perspective;
crime within the borough is low and the CDRP has produced better
results than most.
4 Present Position - The Borough Council
4.1 Our approach to reducing Criminal Damage
4.1.1 The Council‟s Corporate Performance Plan 2005-2006 contains six key
priorities for improvement, two of these, “Achieve a cleaner, smarter
and better maintained street scene and open space environment” and
“Reduce Criminal Damage” have a clear and direct relationship to
reducing Criminal Damage within the borough.
4.1.2 There is a very close link between criminal damage and anti-social
behaviour in that damage to property often occurs when ASB is evident
and some criminal damage is reported as ASB. The Council's Crime
Reduction Unit co-ordinates the CDRP's work in relation to ASB
therefore it does often become aware of cases of criminal damage. If,
in investigating an ASB case, on occasions evidence of criminal
damage may be passed to the Police for separate action. ASB cases
are investigated vigorously by the CDRP with a high level of success in
ceasing the behaviour of perpetrators, which in turn will have an impact
in reducing criminal damage. The consumption of alcohol or the taking
of drugs can also contribute towards the committing of criminal
damage. In addressing these issues also it is hoped that will contribute
indirectly to reducing criminal damage. It has always been difficult in
most cases of criminal damage, as with ASB, for the perpetrators to be
identified and evidence obtained to enable action to be taken against
offenders. The benefits of the new local networks provided by local
policing, community wardens and other officers is now being realised
by providing increased sources of information.
4.1.3 Bearing in mind the significant priority afforded to this topic it is
unsurprising that the Council‟s approach to reducing CD is multi
faceted. In addition to the work of the Council‟s Crime Reduction Unit a
number of other council services also seek to reduce Criminal Damage
within the borough.
4.1.4 The following table details examples of how the council is working
corporately and directly through service delivery to prevent and reduce
CD. The following list of actions was identified by the Crime Reduction
Unit and in part are supported by the 2005 TMBC Mainstreaming Audit.
Action Council Service/s Purpose
Most council offices external walls are Property Protect Council Property /
coated are treated with anti paint solution pleasant environment
Public conveniences are fitted with stainless Property/EHHS Protect Council Property /
steel toilet ware. pleasant environment
Rainwater pipes on buildings are sited, Property Protect Council Property
fixed and have anti-climb guards to prevent
Vandal proof litter bins are sited as Leisure/Environmen Protect Council Property /
appropriate to damage experienced tal Health pleasant environment
Children‟s play area equipment is sited and Leisure Protect Council Property
selected with CD resistance considered
Borough is a partner in the Grimebuster Crime Reduction Enhance environment/Deter
graffiti cleaning project. Other partners Unit/Environmental further graffiti
being Kent Probation , Tunbridge Wells Health
B.C, Sevenoaks D.C and Kent Police
Anti climb paint is used on council property Property Protect Council Property
Investment in CCTV has been and Planning and Protect property / Reduce fear of
continues to be very significant.( fixed and Transportation crime / Detect offenders
External fittings to council buildings are Property Protect Council Property
selected with CD resistance as a prime
Contractors are asked to maintain sites Property Protect Council Property
clear of debris and ensure unauthorised
access to scaffolding is prevented
CCTV on buses is encouraged and Planning and Protect Public Transport
supported by the council (Public transport Transportation
Council policy is to support prosecution of Legal Services Deter future offending
offenders and to pursue civil claims for
compensation in all CD cases
A Graffiti working group (sub group of the Crime Investigate issue and
Street Scene OSG) has been established to Reduction/EvHealth recommend actions
report options for future action. Membership /Highways/Leisure/ ( Including section 48 ASB Act
includes KCC Youth and Community, Kent Planning/Engineeri 2003 re councils powers to
Probation, Kent Police and council officers. ng oblige owners to remove graffiti)
Issue: Estates Protect Council Property
Amending lease conditions so that leasees
can protect their properties from criminal
Example: One off current project
Retail units at Martin Square were suffering
from broken windows, graffiti etc. whilst
they were closed, some leasees had
become quite concerned as it was
expensive to keep replacing windows and
clean off the graffiti. They proposed putting
up shutters to prevent criminal damage to
their shop fronts, however these were not
permitted in their lease agreements. In light
of the damage being caused the Council
gave retro permission for shutters to be
installed as long as they were open during
trading hours so as not to make the square
seem „run down‟.
4.2 Effectiveness of the Council’s Approach to combating CD
4.2.1 National research, reported in a Home Office Briefing note “What works
in reducing criminal damage” (2004) stated that the most effective
approaches to reducing CD were found to be:
1. Surveillance by CCTV and lighting; As described in the above
table CCTV is operated extensively throughout the borough.
2. Work in schools; The council is lead partner in the CDRP
which supports such work.
3. Provision of activities for young people; The council provides
play schemes and the Y-2 Crew diversion project for youth. The latter
is targeted at areas with higher than average levels of crime/criminal
damage. Both the council and CDRP fund youth work at various
4.2.2 Additionally there are other actions that the Council has undertaken
from the above list that have proven to be effective. For example since
the installation of stainless steel toilet ware there has been a significant
reduction in the number of CD incidents in our public conveniences as
an outcome our maintenance costs have reduced. It is noted however
that not all of our current activity is measured for its effectiveness.
4.3 The financial cost of Criminal Damage to the Council
4.3.1 There is no centralised or service based record of the cost to the
council of CD to council property. During the Audit of crime and
disorder carried out in 2004 it was not possible to quantify the cost. A
record is maintained of insurance claims but these could represent a
small proportion of total cost. From January 2002 to Aug 2005 five
insurance claims were made totalling £12,807. Identifying damage as
criminal is not always possible; a road sign sprayed with graffiti is
patently CD, a bent road sign could be the result of a number of
4.4 Present position – Actions of the CDRP
4.4.1 The Tonbridge and Malling Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership
(CDRP) has produced a Strategic Plan 2005-08. The function of the
strategy is to focus the efforts of partner agencies on priority issues
and areas as determined after public consultation and the audit of
crime and disorder. One of the five identified priorities of the CDRP
within the strategy is the reduction of Criminal Damage.
4.4.2 The CDRP is currently working to reduce Criminal Damage in the
A reduction target of 15% (2003/04 to 2007/08) has been set and Ongoing to
agreed with the Home Office. 2007/08
A problem profile (detailed analysis of CD) is being undertaken by 2005/06
A Crime Reduction sub group monitors trends and patterns in CD Ongoing
Additional mobile CCTV cameras including vandal proof casings Current
Operation “Tri-Star” is being funded to tackle CD on public Ongoing
Projects undertaken by Kent Fire and Rescue Service to reduce Ongoing
deliberate fires are supported.
Funding of the Y-2 Crew scheme summer holiday youth diversion Annual
activity programme. event
Funding extension of youth work in specific areas (East Malling, 2005-06
Snodland, Hadlow, Burham and Walderslade).
Vehicle Watch; Registration scheme and awareness campaign to Launched
reduce CD (Primary objective is to reduce vehicle theft). Sept 2005
Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and KCC Ongoing
Community Wardens are actively supported by both the council
and the CDRP. There is day to day liaison between them and
members of the crime reduction unit .The presence of these
uniforms on the streets of residential and town areas has an effect
on the fear of crime and the incidence of crime. (KCC and Kent
Police are currently evaluating the roles.)
4.5 Present position – Actions by other agencies
4.5.1 The Tonbridge and Malling Crime Prevention Panel circulated posters
advertising a £100 reward for information leading to the successful
prosecution of graffiti offenders. (Two claims have been made to the
scheme, the results of prosecutions are awaited).
4.5.2 Moat Housing have adopted the Tonbridge and Malling Crime
Prevention Panel poster and offer of reward.
4.5.3 West Kent Police maintain a catalogue of graffiti tags (tags are the
designs adopted and habitually used by offenders).
4.5.4 West Kent Police visit retail outlets and request controls on the display
and sale of aerosol paints. It is a criminal offence to sell aerosol paint
to under 16 year olds.
4.6 Comparison with other areas
4.6.1 CDRP boundaries are coterminous with local authority boundaries. For
the purposes of comparison, the Home Office has created „Family
Groups‟. Tonbridge and Malling CDRP has been placed into a group of
14 like CDRPs on the basis of socio-economic similarities as well as
crime and disorder issues similar to T&M.
4.6.2 By comparing our family group with other CDRPs we can see if there
are any additional/alternative initiatives/actions that they carry out
which we could also undertake. Annex 1 contains a list of activities that
other CDRPs within our family group have identified as effective in
tackling criminal damage.
4.6.3 The following chart compares CD offences per 1000 population in
Tonbridge and Malling against the average in our family group and the
average across Kent as a whole.
4.6.3 The three lines in the above chart are remarkably similar. Over the
period covered by the chart the level of CD in this CDRP is broadly in
line with the average of the family group and consistently below the
Kent average. The level of CD in this CDRP has exceeded the Kent
County average just once in this period, August 2002.
4.6.4 A Home Office study of 90 ASBOs revealed that 36% included CD as
an aspect (www.Together.gov.uk). The Home office definition of ASB
includes 9 elements one of which is CD.
4.7 Consultation with residents
4.7.1 A survey of the Citizens‟ Panel was undertaken in autumn 2004 to
gauge the public‟s perceptions of aspects of crime and disorder and
the work that we are and plan to undertake to reduce it.
4.7.2 Along with ASB and domestic violence, CD (vandalism) was identified
by 93% of the Citizens' Panel, in the autumn 2004 survey, as a priority
for the Partnership. In the same survey CD (vandalism) was the
highest concern based on a list of aspects of crime and disorder, with a
mean score of 4.25 (on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is "not concerned
at all" and 5 is "very concerned"). Respondents also selected, from the
same list, those aspects considered the most common. (Restricted to a
maximum of 4 selections) CD (vandalism) was the third most common
choice selected by 31% of all respondents. However, it is noted that in
contrast to the police definition, the survey treated graffiti and obscene
graffiti as separate aspects of crime and disorder. Although obscene
graffiti did not score as high as criminal damage (vandalism) in terms of
a concern to the public, it did register one of the strongest increases in
concern from an earlier Citizens‟ Panel survey in 2001.
5.0 Key Issues
5.1 Levels of Criminal Damage – In line with national and regional trends
there has been a steady increase in Criminal Damage within the
borough since 1997/98. However, when compared to other boroughs
throughout Kent (Kent BIU) and similar areas (as defined by the Home
Office) the borough has a comparatively low level of crime overall and
a low level of Criminal Damage. This said, the Home Office has agreed
that it is appropriate to reduce Criminal Damage within the borough by
2007/08 by 15% compared to 2003-04.
5.2 Public Concern - The level of Criminal Damage within the borough is
of concern to our residents and 93% agree that this is an issue that
should be addressed by the CDRP. In turn the level of concern
regarding Criminal Damage, due to it high visibility could play a large
part in the changing the levels of the fear of crime.
5.3 Hot Spots - Although a borough wide concern for residents the levels
of Criminal Damage are not consistent throughout the borough, some
areas suffer more than others do.
5.4 Data - Data recording is not always consistent between agencies and
its methodology is subject to regulatory change making comparisons
over time sometimes difficult. Additionally, not all Criminal Damage is
reported and recorded.
5.5 Monitoring effectiveness - In regard to the Council‟s activities there is
not an all embracing monitoring system to gauge the outcomes and
effectiveness of our work in regard to Criminal Damage. Some services
have set LPIs through the Corporate Performance Plan to measure
their work; others monitor their work in service.
6.0 Improvement Options
6.1 There are a number of aspects of reducing CD that the council and
CDRP should consider and these are noted below.
1. Increase the effort in addressing graffiti. The Council, together with
other partners work together to reduce incidents of graffiti in the
2. Increase the risk. In addition to current action encourage staff to
report witnessed offending and offences. Assist in advertising
Neighbourhood Watch and Crimestoppers in Here and Now.
3. Reduce the rewards. The council should consider a maximum item
within which CD to council property is repaired and in particular that
graffiti is removed. This approach does require constant monitoring but
makes offending less appealing.
4. Research and review. The council as lead member should ensure
that the CDRP reviews CD and undertakes in depth research including
the temporal, geographic and type of target. Decisions should then be
made as to specific partnership actions to reduce the number of
5. Consider good practice from elsewhere. The review within this
document of the actions of Most Similar CDRPs has produced some
items of good practice beyond those already being undertaken. (See
Annex 1) Those that there are should be considered for
6. Encourage other partners. The council as a lead partner in the
CDRP should encourage other partners to raise the priority of CD on
the agendas of partner agencies and others.
7. Extend awareness amongst young people. Environmental Projects
Co-ordinator to extend school talks to include wider aspects of CD.
Opportunities to make young people aware of the problems caused by
damage to property should also be taken when delivering other