Violent crime on the rise in county

By Mark HeathVIOLENT crime has risen by almost 10% in Suffolk over the past nine months of 2004 - but more people than ever said they felt “very safe” in the county.

By Mark Heath

VIOLENT crime has risen by almost 10% in Suffolk over the past nine months of 2004 - but more people than ever said they felt “very safe” in the county.

The latest figures, released by Suffolk police yesterday, showed the amount of crime in the county fell by 1.4% between April and December last year, compared to the same period in 2003.

A total of 39,903 crimes were recorded, a drop of 586 on 2003, with the largest fall coming in domestic burglary, which dropped by 23.9% (1,388, down from 1,824).

Meanwhile, robbery fell by 7.9% (198, down from 215) and vehicle crime also reduced by 7.9% (4,084, down from 4435).

But violent crime increased by 9.4% (8,699, up from 7,950) and disorder rose by 2.3% (9,711, up from 9,489).

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A worrying part of the rise in violent crime saw a 25% increase in assaults on police officers (315, up from 237).

Despite that, the number of people who said they felt “very safe” in the county jumped from 42.5% in 2003 to 55.2% last year.

Commenting on the figures, Suffolk Assistant Chief Constable Colin Langham-Fitt said: “I'm very pleased with them.

“Obviously, the continued rise in violent crime is the one area that causes me some concern, but put that into context and it's an absolutely fantastic set of results.”

Mr Langham-Fitt picked out the drop in burglary as the most pleasing, saying it had been one of the force's main priorities for much of last year.

He added: “If you look at the reduction in burglaries and what that means in terms of the drop in the number of people that are the victims of this horrible crime, that is great news.”

While he conceded that the rise in violent crime and police officer assaults was an area of concern, Mr Langham-Fitt said part of the increase could be seen as evidence of police doing their job.

He added: “The violent crime figures that are in this report includes things like domestic violence, which we've been encouraging people to report.

“Some of these increases could be down to people being more comfortable reporting these offences, which is what we want to see.

“Violent crime, for the last six months of the year has been our top, number one priority.

“For example, we've been working with the alcohol industry to try to prevent excess drinking in those people who choose to drink until they become aggressive and violent.

“We've also been nipping more of these cases in the bud through our high visibility patrols, stopping any problems before they can escalate.”

Of the officer attacks, Mr Langham-Fitt added: “Of course, we've got more police officers this year this year than last year and we are also being very high profile.

“It's protecting the public and sadly it's a fact of life - it does mean that we're getting to the seat of the problems.”

Mr Langham-Fitt also welcomed the record number of people who said they felt very safe living in Suffolk.

“I think that links very strongly to the fact that we are such a very safe county. Even with things like violent crime, the figures compare very favorably to other areas of the country,” he said.

“This is really good news for the county. People in Suffolk should feel safe and should rejoice that they live in a wonderful part of the world, in a low-crime area.

“But low crime doesn't mean no crime - we've still got work to do, and people must remain vigilant.”

mark.heath@eadt.co.uk

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