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Dorset remains one of the safest counties in the country despite first rise in reported crime for 18 years

Dorset Police has today released local crime statistics for the first quarter of the 2015/16 financial year, from April to June 2015, showing a 12% rise.

Dorset Police usually announces crime figures after a whole year, but with this quarter’s data showing the first increase in reported crime for over 18 years, the Force is taking the early opportunity to explain the rise and reassure that Dorset is still one of the safest places in the country.

Chief Constable of Dorset Police, Debbie Simpson, said in response to the statistics:

“The number of crimes reported has increased by 12% comparing April to June 2015 with the same period last year. This is mostly due to an increase in lower level, higher volume crimes, changes to our crime recording system and as a result of the increased faith people have in the police when it comes to reporting non-recent sexual offences and domestic abuse.

“Although the number of reported crimes has increased in Dorset, this mirrors a trend already noticed nationwide and so, unfortunately, it was expected to happen at some time this year. 29 out of 43 police forces nationally have already seen increases in the number of crimes reported.

“It should be noted that crime rates in Dorset and other smaller forces generally follow the patterns of larger forces up to a year later. For example, nationally there was an increase in violent crime reported 12 months ago and Dorset has only recently seen the same developing trend.

“Since the high-profile inquiry into Jimmy Savile, more people have reported non-recent sexual offences leading to an increase of 20% in sexual offences in Dorset.  That, coupled with a nearly 30% increase in violent crimes, many of which do not involve physical violence, has had an impact on our overall reported crime. While we have seen increases in some types of crime, it is important to recognise that we have also seen reductions in others, such as burglaries reducing by around 8%.

“Just as significantly as the volume of crime increasing, the type of crime we now respond to is often more complex and time-consuming than it was five or ten years ago. New types of offences are being committed online and, even for crimes such as fraud and harassment that take place offline, there is often a need to examine computers and phones. This has required us to change our approach to how we investigate many offences and to invest in new technology.”

In May 2015 Dorset Police introduced a new computer system internally to modernise how the Force holds and shares information, and enable additional benefits like mobile policing. This has improved the quality of crime information gathered and provides greater scrutiny to ensure accurate crime recording.

Mandatory changes to Home Office rules about how crimes should be recorded have also impacted the number of reported crimes. For example, some types of events reported to police in the past may have been recorded as incidents for response and initial investigation, but they will now be recorded as crimes immediately. 

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Martyn Underhill, commented:

“As PCC, I have always been clear to the people of Dorset that I believed reported crime would show an increase during my term of office. This is because crime cannot continue to go down indefinitely – 18 years of decreasing crime in Dorset is an astonishing result.

“The local rise also sits against a backdrop of crime increasing across the country, so we must not lose sight that Dorset is still one of the safest counties in England and Wales.

“The public can also be reassured that Dorset Police and other forces are now recording crime more fully and accurately than ever before. Because of local and national pressure, a call which, two years ago may have been considered as “information only” or an “incident” is now recorded as a crime.

“During my term in office, the Force has become better at responding to victims’ needs, whether that’s in how crimes are recorded or the care given afterwards. This understandably increases individuals’ and the wider public’s confidence to report crime to the police. It must not be forgotten that much of the recorded increase is due to these higher confidence levels and new ways of recording, rather than additional crime being committed.”

Chief Constable Debbie Simpson concluded:

“Despite this increase in reported crime, I can confidently say that Dorset remains an incredibly safe place to live, work and visit. I am also pleased to see that we are experiencing improved satisfaction from victims in how we respond to and investigate crimes, and that confidence in policing reported by the wider public is also increasing.

“This demonstrates that the people of Dorset continue to feel safe in the knowledge that the Force will deal with crime effectively. We will always strive to protect local people and keep crime levels low.”