Anti Burglary Campaign – A Report

After a recent spate of violent burglaries, the Asian community started a signature campaign in Leeds and the neighbouring areas by writing a letter addressed to Fabian Hamilton, the MP Leeds North East. The campaign intended to capture the stories of the community along with the impact to their daily day-to-day life.

Letter to Fabian

Online Signature Campaign – Letter to the MP, Leeds North East.

The signature campaign aimed to highlight the irony that hard working men and women are currently living in fear of violent burglaries in their own homes while the thieves and robbers thrive and attack people in their own homes. The campaign also captured people’s views around the impact to their day to day lives because of the violent crimes. The topmost element of the impact was the Emotional factor, i.e. fear, worry, etc; second most concern was safety of their family and then was related to the valuables e.g. car, jewellery, etc. This indicated that the people are living in fear of violent burglaries and are concerned about the well-being of their family members. As a follow up to the letter, a meeting was set up with an esteemed panel including political and high-ranking police officials to discuss the community problem in an open forum.

The meeting was held on 18th May 2018 in St. Chad Parish hall and was attended by more than 150 people of the community. The comprehensive panel included, Fabian Hamilton – MP Leeds North East (Labour Party), Mark Burns-Williamson – the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, Simon Jessup – Detective Chief Inspector Head of Reactive CID, Leeds District Senior Leadership Team, Richard Horn – Inspector Neighbourhood Police Team, North East and Cllr Peter Harrand – Councillor Alwoodley Ward (Conservative Party).

The Panelists

From Left – Peter Harrand, Fabian Hamilton, Mark Burns-Williamson, Bhavin Shukla, Simon Jessup and Richard Horn

Bhavin Shukla (Community leader) introduced the panel members to the attendees. Bhavin Shukla then provided the statistics on crime which had worried the community by quoting the BBC Panorama programme that was aired on 16th May 2018 on BBC1.

Figure 2 - The Crime Map of Britain, 2017

The Crime Map of Britain published by The Sun in 2017

The statistics highlighted in Panorama, Police Under Pressure, matched the report titled “The Crime Map of Britain” published on 22nd June 2017 by the Sun newspaper. In September 2017 BBC reported a rising trend in burglaries in South Asian homes for gold. They reported figures as high as 2 burglaries in Indian homes per week in Milton Keynes. London Metropolitan Police estimated 50 million pound worth of jewellery stolen form South Asia homes in London in the last financial year. Some of the statistics discussed alluded in Panorama were shocking e.g. recorded crime at national level has increased by 21% from 2014 to 2017, whereas 11% fewer criminals have been charged for conviction in the same period. The number of violent crimes have also increased in past 3 years e.g. 41% increase in number of rape cases and 15% increase in homicide cases at national level. It was also discussed that West Yorkshire has one of the largest police forces and also has one of the highest crime rates.

During the meeting one of the victims, a 70 year old lady based in Woodlea area of Leeds, narrated her shocking story of how her house was burgled and she was held captive with a screwdriver pointed at her neck. This first hand account of a violent burglary caused visible signs of distress within the attendees and the speakers. At this point after the attendees has absorbed the seriousness of the topic and empathized with the victim, the forum was then made open for discussion with the representatives from police force given the first opportunity to talk, followed by the elected representatives.

Whilst Mark Burns-Williamson, Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire acknowledged the increase in the overall crime rate at a national and local level, and the very real perceptions of the victims affected and the wider community, he added that he did not feel that there was a disproportionate increase in break-ins into British – Asian households according to the recorded figures. He continued that there were recent priorities and budget set aside to fund more police constables, which should help to bring the situation under control. Mark said, that the Chief Constable – Ms Dee Collins, directly reports to him and he assured that the matter will be discussed with her after the meeting. Mark also mentioned that there is funding available for the community to bid into and his office are there to assist if the community chooses to apply for a grant.

Chief Inspector Simon Jessup mentioned that he personally went through the statistics and as per his view there was no pattern to support that the British Asian families were systematically targeted. He also mentioned that in fact the crime rate has decreased from 10,000 previous year to 7,800. The figures quoted by Simon were in complete contrast with the numbers reported by BBC in the Panorama, which indicated 25% increase in domestic burglary in the last 3 years in West Yorkshire region. Simon’s view was that more incidents were being reported and this falsely puts up the statistics (for example break-ins into sheds are also being counted which are supposedly increasing the numbers). He highlighted preventative measures like role of community reporting suspicious people, neighbourhood watch, securing houses, etc. He reassured the community that with the new introduction of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), robbers could be apprehended before or after crimes are committed.

Richard Horn, Inspector Neighbourhood Police Team North East, recognized the problem and encouraged the community to get to know the Neighbourhood police team (NPT). He concentrated on preventative measures including avoiding usage of social media for posting photographs that displayed jewellery and attracting the attention of thieves. He also highlighted how the community needed to engage with the PCSO in reporting crimes as soon as possible, so that criminals could be traced quickly.

Before Fabian Hamilton started his response, he was made aware of the statistics by the chair e.g. at any point there were estimated 250-320 criminals on the run in West Yorkshire, more than 50 gangs are operative in the region, failure of police to respond to more than 20% of the actual emergency within the stipulated time due to resource limitations, etc and the question was asked, whether the public fear about increase in violent burglary is a perception or a reality.

Fabian Hamilton in his address balanced his views by stating that violent crime targeted at Asian homes is both a perception and a reality. He said that he sympathized with the community and asserted that it is not right for anyone to live in fear. He reassured the community and offered his help ensuring that he will respond to everyone that has written to him and belongs to his electoral ward. He reiterated the need of increase in funding to support police force and highlighted the point earlier raised by Mark in relation to the increase in Council Tax. He suggested the community on how more support can be provided by the authority e.g. taking up the cases with the police directly and setting up an Advisory Surgery, involving district burglary team, applying for the grant, etc. He also agreed and emphasized on key performance indicators to be given to understand improvement of the situation and linking it to increase in funds e.g. increase in council tax.

Councillor Peter Harrand, in his response, mentioned that in the last 20 years he had not heard about robberies in Asian houses being an issue and encouraged the community to bring this forward and “make a noise” to ensure that the concerns are appropriately addressed. He also enlightened the community about police clinics set up on the first Monday of the month in TreeTops Community Centre on Shadwell Lane and urged people of the community to meet up and get to know the local PCSO’s.

The Attendees

More than 150 people from the community attended the event.

Finally, the forum was set open for the community to ask questions to the panel, where pertinent questions were raised e.g. Who should be living in fear, the victims or the criminals and why the laws seem to be protecting the perpetrators? There was a consensus among the attendees that more force should be used to protect the people. There were questions in relation to the austerity measures, mostly seeking answers around the long term political strategy and why were these accepted in first place. Questions were asked for the lack of responsibility and accountability in relation to the increase in crime and victims, and why a model like NHS cannot be used where patient safety is at the heart of the operational procedure. The absence of performance measures and information available in the public domain around how the tax payer’s money is used to protect them for better living, was also raised in the forum.

There was an acceptance of the fact from the panelists that one burglary is one too many and that the police officers will take measures to ensure community safety e.g. increased patrolling, provision of community support officers, automatic number plate recognition, monitoring of known gangs. Cynics would argue that thefts, robberies and burglaries would not attract attention in comparison to other violent crimes like rape or murder. However, the risk to vulnerable children and elderly in their family homes, invasion of privacy and psychological impact cannot be underestimated. Law abiding citizens deserve protection in a society which asks for a significant contribution of their hard-earned income towards national insurance, council tax, personal and home insurance, safety deposit lockers, CCTV’s and police approved locks etc in the house. These measures promote locking ourselves in our homes to protect ourselves rather than expect a reasonable level of security, which is a deterrent to the burglary menace. Low success rates of 16% is unacceptable in any other field, and whilst we can sympathize with the financial pressures the police force is working, it is important to recognize and address the magnitude of the problem. Administrative measures are required from authorities that are goal directed, transparent and delivered within set time frames.

BBC look north covered the event. Police and Crime Commissioner did not think there was any evidence to indicate that there is an increase over the expected in burglaries in Asian households and the community were left void in relation to the safety issue. Poorly thought out, money saving and cost-effective policing can never be the best answer for austerity and has the potential to shatter public confidence. Dr Shashi Yelluri mentioned,” Burglars are prepared to intimidate and use violence & aggression to get what they want.  They obviously have no fear of being caught or apprehended.” In general, there was a feeling that the community would like to work to increase awareness and tackle this important issue before it further gets out of control. Dr Gayatri Rao said,” Our first meeting provided the much-needed interface with authorities and we look forward to better dialogue with the police in monitoring and reporting of crime so that we can understand the magnitude of the problem”; One of the attendees, Paresh Bhurke observed, “the session was very helpful and gave us insights on how policing works in terms of these cases. It is too early to say that the things would be sorted very soon but it is important to keep meeting often”. Mr Kishore Dabhi said as an observation, “Mr. Fabian Hamilton MP was reassuring with the promises of support for the community of Leeds with further support in helping to deal with any future incidents of robbery, by taking up incidents with the police directly”, however he had a mixed response and noted that more needs to be done, “I am not left with a feeling of safety after the meeting. Let us give officers and government an opportunity to prove their willingness to help our community to regain the feeling of safety once again.”

Whether it is real or perceived, the community hopes that better communications and active contacts will be made so that the feeling of safety is once again regained. The community is upbeat to raise the issue until it is resolved by rearranging meetings at regular intervals.


About the Authors:

Dr Olivia Pereira is a consultant Physician and Endocrinologist at Mid Yorkshire NHS trust.

Bhavin Shukla is working as an IT Consultant in the data space for last 20 Years. He has worked extensively for years on complex IT Transformation Programmes on NHS IT projects and financial organisations. You can reach the author on shuklabhavin@yahoo.com

Many thanks to Dinesh Kaulgud for proof reading the article.

My special thanks to All Friends Group, an Indian / Asian community group based in Leeds, UK, which helped to organize the program and supported throughout the campaign. Most of the people who volunteered for this event were part of this group.


 

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A Journey to the Centre of Development

In the developed world, the word ‘Baloo’ might remind us of a loving and caring Jungle Book character but for the people in remote tribal areas and in the real jungle/forest of Karnataka where the basic necessity of life is questioned at every step, it is synonymous with growth and development.

Dr R Balasubramaniam aka Balu or Bala, the founder and executive director of the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM), was in Leeds recently to deliver a talk on the interesting work that the SVYM has been doing for last 30 years. The Indian community in Leeds crammed into the Shadwell village hall where the talk was being held filling every nook and cranny to listen to Dr Balasubramaniam.

The programme was organised by Dr Mamta Gupta and Dr Sanjeeva Gupta, the city’s top consultant in Pain Management and the event was supported by the All Friends Group (an upcoming Event management organisation very popular within the Indian Community in North Leeds area).

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Bharatanatyam Performers: Back row – from left, Esha Gupta, Vyshnavi Rao, Prisha Shukla and Risha Gupta. Front row – Keli Shukla

Leeds may seem very far from India, but the hearts of the non-resident Indians in Leeds is very close to the country where most of them were born and brought up.This was very much reflected in the agenda of the event. The event commenced with the performance of three wonderful Bharatanatyam dances (an Indian classical dance form) by the students of Devika Rao Dance Theatre (DRDT).

This was then followed by a brief speech from Sanjeeva introducing Dr Balasubramaniam. On listening to what Dr Balasubramaniam has achieved in life by volunteering his time for the underprivileged and tribal population, an introduction of any length would have seemed brief. To note a few points, Dr Balasubramaniam has been a doctor, an author, a development scholar, a mentor, a trainer, an activist and most importantly a social entrepreneur – a term that was new for many in the audience. At the age of 19, he started a movement called Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM) and lived for 26 years in the rural areas of Karnataka working on development programmes. He pursued his academic degrees on leadership, organisational development and public policy after his stay in the rural areas and then was a Frank Rhodes Professor in Cornell University between 2012 and 2016. He is currently working as a visiting faculty in several esteemed universities across different countries.

Dr Sanjeeva Gupta addressing the attendees

He has also authored several books of which “Vivekananda as I see him” and   “i, the citizen” are a couple to note. Dr Balasubramaniam has been deeply influenced during his early life by Swami Vivekananda’s teachings. He strongly believes that today’s youth should put more efforts to understand Swamiji’s teachings instead of iconifying him. Dr Balasubramaniam’s first interaction to Swamiji’s teachings came when he started as a student in an Engineering college but could not last more than a day in the institution due to intense ragging. Dr Balasubramaniam laughs this out as a fortunate event else he would have been just another Engineering student.  Dr Balasubramaniam is also a founder of another movement called, Grassroots Research and Advocacy Movement (GRAAM), which is more focussed towards helping corporate to establish social projects and is also oriented towards public policy research.

Dr Balasubramaniam spoke fluently and passionately about his views on development. He spoke about the position that our country used to be in the past and how much development has been done in recent centuries. Our country along with China, 200 years ago, used to contribute to more than 30% of global GDP but now has more than 25% of world’s poor. He described how our country that used to have 20% of global trade share is now reduced to less than 2% of the global trade share. Around 70% of Indians do not have proper established sanitation, 60% of our country does not have access to clean drinking water and 54% of the children are malnourished. Even with this staggering astronomical numbers in a 1.25 billion population, somehow this does not prick the common man’s conscience and life just goes on. According to Dr Balasubramaniam the reasons behind this is to be seen as a failure of leadership.

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Dr Balasubramaniam delivering the talk on SVYM

The country today is in need of a slogan of ’Making India’ instead of ‘Make in India’. He spoke about the India that the non-resident Indians were not aware of and his speech was an eye-opener in that context. He mentioned that the country’s economic growth and increase in GDP is very much welcome but it alone cannot be the measure of the development index. Development to Dr Balasubramaniam is not about building airports and highways; it is not even about the roads, hospitals and schools. These should be seen as a consequence of human development rather than the very purpose of it. Development as defined by Dr Balasubramaniam is ‘a constant expansion of human capabilities’ and it can be most meaningful and lasting only when ‘Human’ and ‘Social Capital’ is created and expanded. He believes that expanding human and social capital is the best way forward and by doing this will result in Economic consequences.

Dr Balasubramaniam provided further clarification; the human capital can be in 4 domains and involves expansion of the physical, cognitive (intellectual), Emotional and Spiritual domains and we should not limit ourselves focussing only on the economic factors as this can paint an incorrect picture. Dr Balasubramaniam said that the people who would further like to know about “development” should try and read the first chapter of his book ‘i, the citizen’.

The talk by Dr Balasubramaniam was hugely appreciated by the audience. The curiosity to understand SVYM’s model of working could be seen by the large number of questions from the audience.

In relation to the queries on funding, Dr Balasubramaniam explained that the world calls SVYM as a Non-Government Organisation (NGO); however the SVYM members prefer it to be called as a Development Organisation. As can be seen from the SVYM’s financial report 2014-15, not more than 15% of fund income is from the Government and hence the focus needs to be on self-sustenance and making NGO’s as Development Organisations qualifying it as Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship.

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Lunch time – Serving Table

Soon it was time to conclude the discussion as the aroma of the delicious Indian meal wafted through the room. A three course meal was served to the attendees and the Indian delicacy was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.

Dr Balasubramaniam had brought two hard bound books of “i, the citizen” which was then auctioned as there was quite an interest in acquiring a signed copy from Dr Balasubramaniam.

Left: Mr Manoj Bhura and Mr. Natwar Tibrewal at its best – Auction time; Top Right: Mr and Mrs Chittal – Book 1 auctioned successfully; Bottom Right: Dr Balasubramaniam with Dr Bhavani Rengabashyam. Hats off!

Lunch was then followed by a flurry of superb Bollywood dance performances.

Bollywood dance performances – Left: From left, Anaya Tibrewal, Aishni Choudhary, Jasmine Gupta, Keli Shukla, Naavya Pillai; Right: Riya Maslekar

Dr Harun Gupta then showed his skills in a very different genre of dance – Break Dance, which was equally supported / funded by Dr Ganesan Baranidharan.

Left: Team Work – Ms. Chiragi Solanki and Dr Harun Gupta; Right: Dr Harun Gupta and     Mr. Raxit Shah organising raffle tickets

Various performances and activities followed one after another ensuring that the funding for the good cause kept flowing. A raffle tickets was organised as part of the fund raising programme and people generously contributed to it.

A few paintings created by the resident artists of SVYM were also displayed and were sold to the invitees as part of the fund raising programme.

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Back stage ‘artists’ – no pun intended! Myself and Mr Dhaval Thakker

The community volunteers then pulled their sleeves up and began tidying up the hall and making sure that the hall was left in its original state. As Dr Balasubramaniam said, if ever Swami Vivekananda was needed then it is now and in the words of Vivekananda, “They alone live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive”. Vivekananda’s books have made a difference to the life of hundreds of tribal of Karnataka by influencing Dr Balasubramaniam. The world will be a much better place to live if we have more of Dr Balasubramaniam(s). My personal takeaway from the session was a pledge to know more about Swami Vivekananda by reading at least two of his books recommended by Balu, ‘Vivekananda – His Call to the Nation’ and “To the Youth of India”.

If we try to measure the success of the event by counting the fund collected it will become analogous to measuring development just based on the GDP. Hence, even if it is important to measure how much we collected, it is immaterial to discuss it in this newsletter.

The right measure for this type of event should be how many of us got inspired. The very next day after the event, my 8 year old asked me many questions about how Dr Balasubramaniam gets the money to help the poor. She wanted to understand the problem faced by the tribal people and also wanted to check if she can be of any help to the underprivileged. Her question was, how could she contribute and after discussing a few options, she decided to trade-in her birthday party that she has been planning for at least a couple of months and donate the money for the right purpose (she is also planning to write a letter personally to Dr Balasubramaniam).  In Dr Balasubramaniam’s words – “that is the ‘Social Capital’ that this world badly needs, if it needs to stop hurtling towards self-destruction”.

Jai Hind.

If you would like to donate to SVYM (UK) which is a registered charity in the UK (charity no: 1118678, all donations are exempt from tax under the provisions of section 505 of the ICTA 1988) you can do this either by Cheque, BACS transfer or Setting up a direct debit. (Account name: SVYM, UK; Sort Code: 089299; Account number 65232923). http://www.svym.org/uk/

 If you wish to donate via GAYE (Give As You Earn) through your employer please contact your pay roll department who will help set this up.  Then contact Charities Trust on 0151 2865129 or phillipw@charitiestrust.org (http://www.charitiestrust.org.uk) and inform them your payroll number, the name of the charity (SVYM UK), charity number and account details and they will automatically receive money from your employer and send this to your chosen charity. Your contribution is fully tax exempt.  If you need further information about ways of donating please contact on sgupta6502@aol.com  or 07880 500766 or drrbalu@gmail.com or visit http://drrbalu.com/

You can reach the author at shuklabhavin@yahoo.com

My special thanks to Dinesh Kaulgud for proof reading the article.