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Devon and Cornwall continue to have the third lowest crime rate out of the 42 forces in the country.
While the latest Office of National Statistics (ONS) crime figures for January 2021- December 2021 report a 5.9% increase in recorded crime, this is likely due to crime returning to pre-covid levels and follows national trends.
Deputy Chief Constable Jim Colwell said: “Devon and Cornwall continue to be one of the safest places in the country and has lower than national average crime rates per 1,000 population. This is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our officers, staff, and volunteers.
“The latest crime statistics reflect how our region is adjusting to life post lockdown and the ongoing challenges of the pandemic. The increase in overall crime is likely due to a return to pre-covid levels of crime being reported in many offence types. This change is reflected nationally across all forces.
“Some aspects of crime have not returned to their pre-covid levels in Devon and Cornwall. Historically we have had relatively low levels of acquisitive crimes including burglary and fraud. Unlike many other Force areas, we haven’t seen these return to pre-covid levels.
"As such we have the lowest levels of crime for a number of acquisitive crime types. Given the current financial climate this is an area we will continue to monitor closely as we know that austerity can be a driver for rises in acquisitive crimes.
“These crime figures provide us with an opportunity to reflect on the impact of the change in crime that contribute to our demand. The figures also highlight to us the areas where we can do better and show us where to best target our resources to combat particular types of crime going forward.”
Some aspects of crime have risen both in Devon and Cornwall and nationally including sexual offences which have risen by 20.5%. Nationally, policing saw increases in rape and sexual offences starting in March 2021.
This coincided with the ending of lockdown and an increased focus on Violence Against Women and Girls – factors that have driven an increased confidence to report sexual offending among victims in Devon and Cornwall. We continue to make Violence Against Women and Girls, and sexual offences a priority across the force.
All burglary offences have seen a decrease of 15%, falling during the lockdowns and not rising back to their former levels. The decrease in acquisitive crime in Devon and Cornwall again reflects national trends.
During the pandemic and particularly during lockdown periods many people worked from home and did not travel or leave vehicles unattended away from the home. As restrictions have eased many people have adopted hybrid working patterns with more working from home than pre-pandemic. This has reduced opportunities for offending through increased natural surveillance and reduced population mobility. The effect persists even after all lockdown restrictions have been removed.
Public order offences have risen 15.5% and the force is third place nationally. The increase in public order offending in Devon and Cornwall also reflects national trends. There are a number of issues that have increased protests nationally over the last two years including Brexit, Covid and Covid restrictions, fuel availability and price, environmental issues and politics. Locally we also saw increased protest during the G7 summit last year.
There has also been a decrease of drug offences by 7.4%. Drugs offences include drugs possession and trafficking offences. The decrease is these offences is also likely due to the impact of our police officers pro-actively tackling drugs-related crime.
Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly, said: “While I am pleased the figures show Devon and Cornwall to be among the safest places to live, work and play some of the trends identified are of concern as we recover from the challenges of the pandemic and the long-term impacts on our community.
“Everyone involved in policing must place public safety, community confidence and regeneration at the heart of our plans to protect our communities’ future – it is one of the reasons why the public has supported my plans to increase officer numbers to record levels by the end of 2022.
“People have told me they want more visible police officers, more action to tackle drug offences and antisocial behaviour.
“My Police and Crime Plan prioritises our efforts on them.
“Violence is inherent in our communities and these figures show the important role our new Serious Violence Prevention Programme has to play – particularly in how it tackles violence against women and girls.
“To tackle drugs effectively we must address both the supply of drugs into our communities and the demand for those drugs.
“I will continue to hold the Chief Constable to account for the effectiveness of the police response to drug trafficking and enforcement both locally and by contributing to regional and national approaches.
“I encourage people to report drug dealing occurring in their community to the police or Crimestoppers and make the South West a hostile environment for drug dealing and at the same time we will continue to deliver the services needed to tackle drug demand and supply.”
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