POLICE believe a growing number of volunteer schemes linked to the force have contributed to a significant drop in crime in the Babergh area.

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Figures comparing the number of incidents between April and December last year with the same period in 2011 show the district has experienced a 13% fall in crime overall, with 404 fewer incidents than the previous year.

The biggest drop was in the number of criminal damage and arson incidents, which fell from 711 to 481 in 2012, which is a 32% reduction. Shoplifting offences also dropped by 22%.

However, the force did see an increase in the number of domestic burglaries in the district, which rose by 11%.

Babergh local policing commander, Inspector Paul Crick, said there had been a great deal of targeted work aimed at the night-time economy and licensing regulations as well as partnership actions taken against offenders.

During the past year, several community projects have been initiated by the police, including Streetwatch, Shopwatch and Pubwatch schemes, which Insp Crick said had also helped achieve the noticable improvement in the figures.

Streetwatch schemes, run by residents who carry out high-visibility patrols, are aimed at promoting good citizenship and empowering the community to take ownership of their public spaces. Sudbury, Hadleigh and Great Cornard all established their own Streetwatch teams last year.

Insp Crick said: “I am really pleased that crime as a whole has decreased during 2012, and we aim to maintain this high level of service to the public and local communities throughout the coming year.

“The reduction in crime reflects the commitment and hard work of the police, Suffolk County Council and other partnership agencies.

“We also could not have achieved this without the support provided by Babergh volunteers including the town pastors, CCTV viewers, street, neighbourhood and speed watch schemes and members of the Special Constabulary.”

The increase in the number of burglaries last year compared to 2011 will be targeted by police in the coming year, according to Insp Crick.

He added: “Burglary remains our key focus for 2013 and we are encouraging residents to take simple steps to help prevent them from becoming victims.”

This includes fitting secure locks to all doors, visible window locks and burglar alarms, and using timer switches for lights and radios when a property is empty.

Garages and sheds should be kept locked and ladders should be securely hidden away.

“We would also encourage people to be alert to strangers loitering in residential streets, and if there is any doubt, call the police,” Insp Crick added.

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