Increase in violent crime across the region higher than UK average
Violent crime rose by 14 per cent across the West Mercia Police area last year, accounting for 88,499 offences, including 14 cases of murder or manslaughter.
The figure, fuelled by a 27 per cent rise in stalking and harassment cases, is above the national average for England and Wales, which saw a 10 per cent rise in violent crime.
The latest recorded crime figures, released by the Office of National Statistics, show that a total of 88,499 offences were recorded in the West Mercia force area last year, up four per cent compared to 2018. The increase was in line with the national average.
But the number of robbery offences rose by 14 per cent to 8,755, compared to a national rise of 12 per cent, while drug offences rose by 14 per cent to 2,3030.
However, theft offences fell by six per cent to 30,155 with house burglaries in particular showing a sharp fall, dropping by 14 per cent to 4,672. Non-domestic burglaries fell by seven per cent to 2,096.
Shropshire police commander Supt Mo Lansdale welcomed the fall in house burglaries, which she said had been a major priority for the force.
She acknowledged there had been an overall rise in recorded crime, and hoped this was down to people feeling more confident in being able to report offences to the police.
There was a three per cent fall in vehicle-related thefts, accounting for 5,492 offences, and thefts from the person fell by 16 per cent to 760. Bicycle thefts were down 23 per cent to 862.
Offences of criminal damage and arson saw a two per cent drop to 9,867, but there was a big increase in possession of offensive weapons, up 17 per cent to 946 – compared to a national rise of 10 per cent.
Public order offences also showed a big rise, up 28 per cent to 5,438, compared to seven per cent across England and Wales.
Mrs Lansdale said the fall in domestic burglaries followed a five-year drive which has seen officers work with local communities, town and parish councils, and the police and crime commissioner.
She said: "Burglary can have a long lasting impact on victims, and can leave someone feeling unsafe in their own home, and where possessions that have emotional attachment are stolen, it can be heartbreaking," she said.
Mrs Lansdale said she was concerned about the rise in violent crime.
“Knife crime and serious violence continues to be a crime that affects society and over the past few years we’ve carried out a lot of work to tackle knife crime," she said.
"We know if someone carries a knife they are more likely to be stabbed themselves, which is why early intervention is absolutely crucial. Last year we introduced the successful Steer Clear programme in Telford to identify and support young people, and their families, on the periphery of becoming involved in knife crime, this work will be rolled out across the three counties we cover."
But she said the police could not tackle the problem alone, and officers would be working with local government, schools, colleges and voluntary organisations. Mrs Lansdale said knife crime in Shropshire was still relatively low compared to other areas.
“We know there has been an increase in some crime types, and a slight rise in total recorded crime for this the year ending 2019 and hope this means victims feel more comfortable and able to report crime when it does happen.
"Our absolute priority is protecting people from harm and when a crime has taken place we want people to come forward and report this to us so we can investigate and ensure those responsible are apprehended."
Over the border in Mid Wales, Dyfed-Powys saw a five per cent rise in overall crime, with a total of 31,656 offences recorded. Like Shropshire, the force saw an above-average increase in violent crime, up by 13 per cent to 13,212 offences.
The number of stalking and harassment offences recorded by the force rocketed 146 per cent over the year – the biggest increase of any force in England and Wales – to 3,614, while offences of violence without injury were up by 28 per cent.
Theft offences were down by five per cent across Dyfed-Powys, falling to 7,338, with domestic burglaries down by seven per cent to 1,041 and non-domestic break-ins down by five per cent to 590.
Dyfed-Powys saw an eight per cent rise in drug crime, accounting for 2,069 offences. Possession of offensive weapons was up by 25 per cent to 239, while public order offences rose by 28 per cent to 2,271.