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52-year-old man charged with trying to meet girl 13 for sex in Crawley

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A man has been charged with trying to meet a teenage girl for sex in Crawley after online contact.

Nigel McDermott, 52, a builders merchant, of Hawks Ridge, Harnham, Wilts, appeared at Crawley Magistrates Court on Friday 14 February, charged with engaging in sexual communication with a child.

He did not enter a plea and was released on conditional court bail, to appear at Lewes Crown Court on 13 March.

It is alleged that he was in online contact with someone he thought was a 13-year-old girl, but who was in fact a police officer.

The prosecution, authorised by the CPS, follows an intelligence-led investigation by the Sussex Police Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT), working closely with the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU).

Communications devices were seized when officers arrested McDermott in a car park at Tilgate Park, Crawley, on Wednesday 12 February.

Enquiries have confirmed that no child was at risk.

Coronavirus

Reports of anti-social behaviour across Crawley increase by as much as 780% during lockdown

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At first glance it is an alarming and worrying increase. The figures from Police.uk show how as the town entered lockdown at the end of March there was a huge increase in reports of anti-social behaviour through the following month of April.

Ifield had the largest increase in reports for anti-social behaviour with a huge rise of 780% in April 2020.

The figure for Ifield ward may be shocking but all other wards across the town have also seen a dramatic rise as well.

The following shows the percentage increase in reports of anti-social behaviour across Crawley for the first month of lockdown (April 2020).

Bewbush reported a 444%.

Pound Hill – 330% increase.

Northgate – 212% increase.

Broadfield – 150% increase.

Langley Green – 135% increase.

Southgate – 135% increase.

Tilgate – 118% increase.

Three Bridges – 100% increase.

Maidenbower reported – 81% increase.

So what has caused the sudden increase? Has the town suddenly become more ‘anti-social’?

Actually no, the answer has everything to do with the very lockdown itself and not what you would normally consider a ‘traditional anti-social behaviour’.

As the new rules were laid out then so most people acted correctly and obeyed them. But at the same time some didn’t and these people ended up getting reported by others.

Now a decision had to be made of how a report into a disobeyance of lockdown rules would be classed and in the end they were put under anti-social behavour.

Whether it was a report of a party happening in someones garden, through to groups of youths congregating on street corners, all these reports got filed under anti-social behaviour and saw the dramatic rise in figures.

One thing these figures have shown, however, is a glimpse into which wards were possibly obeying the rules more than others, OR conversely which ward residents were reporting more frequently on others.

But despite the dramatic rise Ifield did not actually have the highest number of anti-social reports in April 2020 across Crawley. Closer analysis of the figures shows that it was in-fact Broadfield that had the most reports.

Broadfield (which had a 150% rise) had 75 reports compared to Ifield’s 44 in April 2020 with Pound Hill (330% increase) receiving the second highest number of 56.

Looking at Ifields 780% rise, the actual number of anti-social reports in March 202 was only 5, while in April 2020 it was 44.

Our findings are supported by the response from Sussex Police over the figures.

District Commander for Crawley & Mid Sussex Chief Inspector Shane Baker said:

“Most crime types dropped sharply during the early stages of lockdown in April, however the suggested statistics does not reflect a true increase in reports of anti-social behaviour.

“After government restrictions were put in place to slow the spread of Covid-19, police received a high volume of reports of gatherings and Covid-19 related calls, these were recorded under anti-social behaviour and therefore it is not an increase in traditional ASB.

“We continue to monitor the situation closely and are committed to keeping our local communities safe and pleasant places to live, however overall crime is still well below this time last year.

Data for May 2020 has not yet been released, but it will be fascinating to see just how the data compares to the first month of lockdown and whether it raised more concerns of ‘anti-social behaviour’ or fewer.

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