Violent crime soaring in Suffolk

POLICE are failing to stem the tide of violent crime sweeping across Suffolk, new figures have revealed.Recorded violent crime rose by more than 20% in the first six months of this financial year and overall crime by almost 10% on the same period last year.

By Jonathan Barnes

POLICE are failing to stem the tide of violent crime sweeping across Suffolk, new figures have revealed.

Recorded violent crime rose by more than 20% in the first six months of this financial year and overall crime by almost 10% on the same period last year.

The figures, released by Suffolk Constabulary, are a blow to the force's bid to become the safest county in England and Wales.

Suffolk's Chief Constable, Alastair McWhirter, called the rise in crime "disappointing" but said the county still enjoyed some of the lowest crime rates in the country.

Members of Suffolk Police Authority will discuss the force's performance on Friday and hear why targets for cutting crime have not been met.

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The performance report for the first six months of 2003/04 shows there were 5,528 violent crimes across the county – more than 30 a day.

That represents a leap of 1,026 offences (22.8%) from the same period last year, although police bosses stress the category now embraces a wide range of offences.

Detection rates for the offence fell to 62.7% (3,466 offences) compared to 71.6% (3,213) last year.

Levels of overall crime increased by 9.5% on last year, with 2,422 more offences dealt with by police.

That included a rise in house burglaries of 15.5% - from 1,134 to 1,310. The detection rate for such offences fell from 21.4% last year (243 offences) to 18% this year (236).

Reported incidents of domestic violence rose from 1,258 in the first six months of last year to 2,380 in the same period this year.

Criminal damage offences rose by 11% - by 630 offences to 6,340 - but levels of public disorder fell by 1,355 incidents to 9,567 – a reduction of 12.4%.

Police also scored a success in tackling motor crime, with three less offences than last year (3,151) while thefts of motor vehicles fell by 8.4% to 64 offences.

But the public deemed the response to 999 calls as not good enough. Just 64.8% said they were satisfied with the police's action.

The force also revealed its overall detection rate was 32% - the same as in the same period last year and a 0.3% rise on the first three months of the year.

Commenting on the figures, Mr McWhirter said: "While any rise in crime is disappointing, it is important that these figures are viewed in the proper context locally and nationally.

"They follow a year in which the Constabulary made significant progress in making Suffolk even safer.

"Crime statistics for 2002/03 show that crime fell in Suffolk, with the county enjoying the lowest burglary and vehicle crime rates in England as well as the best detection rate.

"In fact, when compared against a set of key indicators designed to show levels and feelings of safety, Suffolk emerged as the third safest county in England and Wales, behind Dyfed Powys and Gwent – therefore making it the safest county in England.

"Suffolk still has some of the lowest crime rates in the country. However, this latest set of figures underlines the challenge we face not just in maintaining this level of performance but improving on it too."

He said the force would continue in its efforts to tackle violent crime, particularly those in public places, through pro-active campaigns and operations, and to target house burglars.

Mr McWhirter added: "More positively, we are matching last year's detection rate – and have solved nearly 800 more offences compared with the same period last year.

"And it would appear that our efforts to get front-line officers spending more time on foot patrol in their local communities is bearing fruit. The figures show that more people now know or recognise the police officers who patrol their area."

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