21 July 2016
Recorded crime in Dorset rose by 15% last year, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The figures are for the financial year 2015/16 (1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016) compared with the previous 12 month period.
The increase in crime reported to police was predicted by the Force in July last year, and has been regularly discussed at Police and Crime Panel meetings. It follows a national trend across England and Wales, with rises already seen in most police force areas.
Deputy Chief Constable James Vaughan said: “The increase is largely due to people’s enhanced confidence in reporting crime to us, the improvements we have made in our crime recording systems and improved compliance with Home Office Counting Rules. These factors have led to Dorset following the national trend of higher crime statistics.
“Dorset Police has also been working with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and the Police and Crime Commissioner to ensure we fully meet the complex and regularly changing Home Office rules on how we record crime. This followed recommendations made by HMIC in 2014.”
One such change was the inclusion of malicious communications into the category of ‘harassment’ and as a result into the broad category of ‘violent crime’. This contributed to a 37% rise in total violent crime.
Other changes to national rules for recording crime have also been a factor in the increase. For example, figures now include all offences that take place in prisons, such as the theft of food from one prisoner by another or a minor altercation. Such offences were previously not always reported to police, if they were fully resolved by internal prison disciplinary processes.
Online crime reporting has also made people more likely to report things that they previously would not have, as the process is accessible and convenient. People are able to report online directly to Dorset Police or via third-party sites such as True Vision or Action Fraud. Though these third-party reports are not included in the ONS end-of-year statistics, the data still contributes to a more accurate picture of crime levels.
Sexual offences are also showing an increase of 20% in line with national trends. This indicates increased confidence to report and reflects the work of the Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT) who proactively seek out offenders.
Dorset is among a minority of police forces that were graded as ‘Good’ in the HMIC vulnerability inspection last year. The Force was praised for its work to encourage people to report sexual offences, domestic abuse and other crimes involving vulnerable victims.
Deputy Chief Constable Vaughan added: “Our safeguarding activity and our victim-focused approach has led to more people coming forward to report crimes affecting the most vulnerable in the county. We make no excuse for encouraging people to report such crimes - whatever impact that has on statistics.
"It is clear this is the biggest rise in recorded crime for many years. However, with many changes over the last year - both to the national recording rules all police forces follow and our internal systems - they cannot be fairly compared like-for-like with previous years. Therefore, we should consider 2015/16 as a new, more accurate baseline.
“Our longer-term analysis now forecasts that the increase shown in 2015/16 will start to revert to the trend of falling crime levels we have seen over recent decades.
“I can reassure people that Dorset remains a safe place to live, work and visit. The officers and staff of Dorset Police are committed to ensuring it stays that way.”
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill, commented: “Ensuring that people feel confident reporting crime, whatever their situation, is a critical part of British policing.
“I am confident that the increase we are seeing is due to this enhanced trust, along with better recording practices, reflecting trends nationally. This rise has been articulated to the media and to the public many times in the last nine months, before these official figures were released.
“Reducing the overall number of victims of crime in Dorset is a long term objective of my second term in office and Dorset Police will continue to adapt with the changing nature of policing to aim at achieving that.”
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