'Being a victim of crime was life-changing'

Steve Tapp standing in front of a rack of t-shirts at his shop, Wrexham Trainer Revival. He is middle-aged with a white beard.
Steve Tapp believes "we need to be looking after people better" [BBC]

When Steve Tapp discovered his new shop had been burgled, and £8,000 worth of stock taken, he was ready to throw in the towel.

Holding his head in his hands one Saturday morning last October, he decided he was "ready to shut the door completely. I was heartbroken, absolutely heartbroken".

His business – Wrexham Trainer Revival - was eventually saved thanks to donations from the community as well as from Wrexham FC's Hollywood owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, but not before weeks of Steve struggling with the consequences of the "devastation".

After running a popular market stall for years, Steve had finally made the move to a new shop in the city centre - which specialises in restoring old trainers, as well as selling new ones and other clothing.

But in the excitement of the move, he never got round to insuring the business, and thieves struck just three weeks after he set up the new premises.

"I sat there for about half an hour and just had my head in my hands, just contemplating where I was going to go next," Steve said.

"The devastation they'd caused, the windows smashed... some of my clothes just in puddles outside. [It was] a tough day."

He added: "I struggled for three or four weeks after that, not wanting to open the doors. And the paranoia then of every morning waking up and wondering if it's happened again.

"When it's multi-million pound stores and they're pinching t-shirts, it might not affect the people at the top. But when it's a tiny little business like this that I'm hardly taking any wages from, and I'm working six days a week, grafting to try and build it up, it's life-changing.

"They just don't understand what I went through."

If it had not been "for the love" he received from social media and the local community, Steve said he believes he would have folded.

An American couple inspired to travel to the north Wales city by the documentary Welcome to Wrexham started an online fundraising campaign.

Money flooded in – including a large donation from Wrexham FC owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney – and he quickly recovered all his losses.

Steve said the police were "great" and responded quickly. Despite two people being arrested and released under investigation, nobody has been prosecuted.

He thinks burglary and opportunist thefts like shoplifting are increasing in the area, and says he believes there is "100%" a link between crime and the cost of living crisis.

"It's tough times, isn't it? People are doing things at the moment that they probably wouldn't normally do in society, and taking chances, potentially sometimes just to feed or clothe their family."

He believes passionately that "we need to be looking after people better," and offering support to criminals to stop them re-offending.

"You see a lot more of it now because there's a prison in the town, so you see a lot of them getting dropped off and they just don't seem to have anywhere to go, anything to do. They need help.

"They need places to be, they need people to advise them. They need people to give them a kick-start, and [then] we might be in a better place."

Dave Rogers, Tracey's Cafe, Wrexham
Dave Rogers suffered many "sleepless nights" after his café was broken into [BBC]

Dave Rogers runs Tracey’s Café with his wife Tracey in the city centre. Last month, the café was broken into and around £1,100 was taken from the tills, as well as charity boxes and staff tip boxes.

"It knocks you sick, knowing that someone's been in and pinched not only the charity, but our money, our hard-earned money," Dave said.

"[I've had] many sleepless night over it, and even now you leave and you're thinking 'is it going to be safe?'

"I drive round and I often come back to the café to make sure that it's locked and I can't see anybody in."

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He said police responded quickly, but no arrests have been made.

Dave said he "never thought for one minute that we would be broken into," adding: "When someone breaks into your home or your business it's just devastating. You're just waiting for the next time."

Tracey's Café has since moved to a new premises.

While he believes crime is an important issue for people, Dave says it is "all down to policing and everybody's got cuts, everybody's cutting back".

"There seems to be slightly less police – that's due to cuts."

Alex Mackenzie
Solicitor Alex Mackenzie says there is a "revolving door" in and out of prison [BBC]

Alex Mackenzie, a criminal defence and prison law solicitor with GHP Legal in Wrexham, said she fell in love with Wrexham when she moved there two years ago - but despite finding people "lovely for the most part" there was "a lot of deprivation".

"A lot of people that I think may feel sidelined or that they've got nothing to aspire to, which then translates into crime ultimately, unfortunately."

While she is unsure more crime is being committed in the area, she does think the value of things being stolen has increased, which results in more people being given short prison sentences.

Rehabilitation and support, she believes, could in many cases be more productive.

"I think the biggest thing is short prison sentences. There's been an increase in the desire – and I understand that desire – to punish people," she said.

"But actually what that means is that we're getting a lot of people going into prison for short periods.

"They're coming out, having lost benefits, accommodation, and are finding that they're ending up back in prison much quicker – sometimes because they feel they have to go there because they can’t cope outside.

"That revolving door, back in and out, is just spinning so much faster I think now."

What do the parties say?

Welsh Labour said a Labour UK government would "put 13,000 extra neighbourhood police and PCSOs on the beat and give every community a named and contactable officer they can contact".

The Welsh Conservatives said more than 20,000 extra police officers have been recruited and "we're going to recruit an extra 8,000 officers across England and Wales who will be dedicated to neighbourhood policing".

Plaid Cymru wants policing devolved to Wales, claiming that "along with powers over the justice system, this would allow for better resources towards crime prevention and bring down re-offending".

The Liberal Democrats said it also wants policing powers devolved to Wales, and that it would be "pushing for a new statutory guarantee that all burglaries will be investigated, and we will also be ensuring that survivors of violence against women and girls are properly supported by a criminal justice system that works for them".

Reform has been asked for comment.