The number of crimes recorded in Northern Devon have reached a nine-year high, according to the latest official figures.

North and West Devon Superintendent Toby Davies says the region is still one of the safest places to live. Picture: Tony GussinNorth and West Devon Superintendent Toby Davies says the region is still one of the safest places to live. Picture: Tony Gussin

The crime figures for 2017, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), show a total of 8,138 crimes reported across Northern Devon last year.

This resulted in an increase of 1,595 crimes (19.5 per cent) recorded compared to 2016.

Violence without injury showed the biggest increase, with 225 extra recorded crimes. Stalking and harassment saw the second biggest increase, with 239 additional crimes.

Violence with injury and criminal damage and arson showed the third and fourth biggest increase in recorded crimes.

Theft from a person, robbery and death or serious injury caused by illegal injury all showed a fall on 2016 figures.

The picture reflects that across Devon and Cornwall Police and the whole country, which has shown a rise in crime across the force area compared to last year.

‘Still one of the safest’

But although figures are at a nine-year high, it still remains one of the safest places to live in the country.

That is the message from North and West Devon Superintendent Toby Davies, who said the region experienced exceptionally low levels of crime when compared against the national average.

Across Devon and Cornwall Police, crime is up by 23 per cent, while for northern Devon it has seen an increase of 1,595 crimes, 19.5 per cent, on 2016 figures.

Supt Davies said: “Clearly we would prefer to see crime levels falling, but these figures really need to be put into context, with most of the recent increases relating to new laws and changes to the way we record crime locally.

“Increases in recorded crime have occurred across every force within the country.

“For example, to meet national recording requirements, new legislation such as the introduction of the Malicious Communications Act means that abusive messages on social media are now recorded as a ‘violent crime’ and it will come as no surprise that we have seen significant increases in this crime type (more than 50 per cent).”

Supt Davies said the force had in fact been praised for the changes it had made in recording crime by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue (HMICFRS), but an obvious consequence of this was is an increase in recorded crime levels.

He added: “There are some crime types, such as domestic abuse (50 per cent up), hate crime (15 per cent up) and sexual violence (30 per cent up) which are associated with higher levels of harm and risk.

“Historically victims have been far less likely to report these appalling crimes and increased reporting in these crime areas is a positive thing, enabling my teams to better work with victims and protect them.”

Drug trafficking

He said police had also seen a 45 increase in drug trafficking offences, relating to the ‘county lines’ issue where out of area suppliers take over the local drug market and vulnerable members of the community, using violence and sending in vulnerable youths to deal for them.

He added: “Understandably this is one of our high priority areas and we will continue to make this a really unattractive place for these unpleasant drug networks to target. In so doing we will clearly see increased identification of drug offences which is again a good thing if it curtails their activity.

“My teams will continue to target the most prolific and highest harm offenders within our area with real success. Local policing teams have an excellent reputation in working within our communities and we are already seeing crime reductions for this new crime year and many of our most problematic criminals are now behind the bars.”