Rise in theft and weapons crime higher in Essex and Suffolk than nationally

A former Essex Police officer has been found guilty of gross misconduct Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A former Essex Police officer has been found guilty of gross misconduct Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Crimes including theft and weapons possession have risen more sharply in Suffolk and Essex than on average across the rest of the country.

Total crime across England and Wales, excluding fraud, increased by 10% to almost five million in the year ending June 2018.

Offences went up 9% in Suffolk and 12% in Essex – with certain crime increasing significantly more than the national average.

Robbery soared by 35% in Suffolk, according to Home Office crime data compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

More than one in 10 (46) Suffolk robberies and more than one in five Essex robberies (21) involved a knife, as weapons possession increased by a quarter and a third in the respective counties.

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Both counties also recorded significantly higher than average increases in personal theft – but the crime rate in Suffolk (less than 70 per 1,000 population) and Essex (less than 77 per 1,000) remained lower than the average rate of 85 across England and Wales.

Drug offences went up at six times the national 4% rate in Suffolk (23%), but rose at just half that in Essex (2%).

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Falls were recorded in Essex for bicycle theft (down 9%) and burglary (down 3% against a national rise). Meanwhile, Suffolk saw a 1% fall in shoplifting and a 3% fall in miscellaneous crimes against society, compared to an 18% rise nationally.

Suffolk police said the rate per 1,000 population made the county the 15th safest of 43 force areas.

Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Kearton said figures generally reflected the national trend in various crime categories.

“We are constantly reviewing all crime being reported to us to ensure we deploy our resources effectively,” she added.

“To this end, we continue to scrutinise our figures for emerging crime trends and prioritise resources to address incidents posing the greatest levels of threat and risk of harm.

A restructure being introduced at the end of October will see more than 100 police officers move to safer neighbourhood teams.

ACC Kearton said the changes demonstrated willingness to listen to the public’s desire for more visible policing, and new neighbourhood and partnership teams would help maintain locally focused preventative work undertaken with partner agencies.

Darren Harris, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, said rising crime reflected cuts in funding and resources.

“We’ll see if the changing police model can be staffed accordingly but I doubt we have the right numbers to get out on the street and address changing trends in crime,” he added.

“The rise in drugs offences, I believe, is the result of proactive work. A low rate could mean we’re not out there tackling the problem because we’re not finding the drugs to record a crime against.

“More worrying are rises in knife crime and robbery, which sometimes go hand in hand, and are linked to transient crime up and down the country. The majority happens in a minority of areas, but it’s still unacceptable.

“To be 15th from bottom in the table is good, but we were second or third bottom about 15 years ago. The fact we’re lower than the overall national average, albeit by a small percentage, is solely down to the hard work of officers.”

Essex Police said the county had a lower rate of recorded ‘violence with injury’ offences than Devon and Cornwall, while being the only area in the East of England to record a fall in burglary.

ACC Andy Prophet said a rise in sex offences, and violence linked to domestic abuse and drugs gangs, were cause for concern.

“The investments we’ve made in the teams investigating domestic abuse, rape and child sexual exploitation, and the Operation Raptor teams taking out violent drugs gangs with their roots in London, show why this must continue to be the highest priority for Essex Police,” he added.

“Domestic abuse accounts for a third of violent crime and 30% of rapes in Essex – this is a crisis happening behind closed doors rather than on our streets and we will keep working with partners to help victims to safety and target perpetrators.”

ACC Prophet said street level violent crime was increasingly driven by drug gangs, adding: “Half of knife crime victims and 40% of victims of acid-type substance attacks refuse to give police an account of what has happened, and one conclusion I draw from that is that those people are caught up in criminal activities themselves.

“However, I know that even if communities are caught up in this sort of crime indirectly, it still has an impact, which is why we are increasing the number of police officers in local and visible roles.”

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