The latest crime figures show an increase of 19.2 per cent compared with the same time last year, but the North and West Devon police chief says that is only part of the story

Crime figures for northern Devon have risen by almost a fifth, according to the latest figures.

The numbers released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show 7,733 crimes were recorded in North Devon and Torridge in the 12 month period up to the end of September 2017, an increase of 19.2 per cent on the previous year.

North and West Devon Superintendent Toby Davies said the region was still one of the safest places to live in the country and in many cases the increases related to new ways in which crime was reported.

He said examples included violence without injury, which increased from 1,180 to 1,561 - a rise of 32.2 per cent - but which actually included things such as malicious comments on social media.

Sexual offences increased from 273 to 374, 36.9 per cent, while possession of weapons offences rose from 45 to 58 or 28.8 per cent.

Vehicle offences went from 227 to 290 - 27.7 per cent - and violence with injury from 978 to 1,078 - 10.2 per cent.

The total figures for burglary rose by 5.9 per cent but there were reductions too - theft from the person fell by 19.2 per cent (52 to 42) and robbery by five per cent (20 to 19).

Supt Davies said: "Clearly any increase in crime is disappointing but this is still one of the safest areas to live in the country with levels of crime far below national averages. Recent changes to crime recording methods has led to some of these rises and every force in the country has seen increases in crime.

"80 per cent of police time is spent dealing with non-crime related matters and much of our activity around protecting people from harm has no crime links (for example missing persons, road traffic collisions). That said reducing crime, particularly the more harmful areas of crime, is an important part of our role.

"We remain committed to supporting victims and preventing the most harmful crimes. Officers will continue to work really hard to protect and serve the community of North and West Devon, which still remains a really safe place to live, work and visit and the likelihood of being a victim of crime is still very low.

"There are however some areas of crime, such as sexual offending and domestic abuse, where increased reporting could be seen as a positive thing, because more people have the confidence to report them. These crimes are often unreported and without victims coming forward my teams cannot provide the necessary support. So I welcome increased reporting in these areas."

He said the force had seen some major successes in the past 12 months, targeting prolific burglary offenders and seeing them put behind bars, as well as several high profile sexual offender who were also jailed.