Devon and Cornwall continue to be one of the safest places to live, work, and visit in the country, with the second lowest total crime rate in England.
The latest Office of National Statistics (ONS) crime figures for March 2021 to March 2022, which ranks all 42 forces in England, report a 12.2% increase in recorded crime, with 56.8 crimes per 1,000 population. This is likely due to crime returning to pre-covid levels and follows national trends.
Temporary deputy chief constable, Julie Fielding, said: “The latest crime statistics reflect how our region is adjusting to life post lockdown, having emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic, and is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our officers, staff, volunteers and our work with communities and partners.
“We have seen an increase in overall crime, which has coincided with the steady return to normality, with people being more active post lockdown. The return of the evening and night-time economies and the numbers of visitors to the counties have increased and we are working hard with our partners to tackle and prevent crime and protect vulnerable people.
“Some aspects of crime have not returned to their pre-covid levels in Devon and Cornwall. All burglary offences have seen a decrease of 7%, falling during the lockdowns and not rising back to their former levels. 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, which has reduced some of the opportunities for offending.
“Historically, we have had relatively low levels of acquisitive crimes and the latest figures show that Devon and Cornwall have the lowest levels of crime for a number of types of acquisitive crimes, and we continue our work on reducing and preventing crime.”
Some aspects of crime have risen both in Devon and Cornwall and nationally, including sexual offences, which have risen locally by 29.5%. Nationally, policing has seen 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.
Devon and Cornwall Police is continuing to make improvements in bringing offenders to justice and working in partnership to prevent such offences from occurring. This includes working with the national Operation Bluestone Soteria team to review how it responds to crimes of rape and sexual offences, to ensure that it can provide the best service possible to communities. Tackling serious violence, violence against women and girls, and sexual offences are all priorities for the force.
The statistics shows that possession of weapon offences have increased by 8%. However, the overall crime rate per population is low, at 0.7 offences per 1,000 population. The increase in possession of weapon offences in Devon and Cornwall is likely due to the number of pro-active policing operations that have taken place over the last 12 months.
Operations such as Operation Scorpion, where five police forces in the South West region work together to create a hostile environment for those who deal drugs in our areas, have recovered offensive weapons during seizures. Recovering these offensive weapons will lead to an increase in possession of weapon offences, but this is a positive result as it means these weapons have been recovered and taken off the streets.
Alison Hernandez, police and crime commissioner for Devon, Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly, said: “While I am pleased to see relatively low levels of recorded incidents for the area — and these figures remind us of how lucky we are to live here — we must remain committed to encouraging more people to report crime, so we have a more accurate picture of offending in the force area.
“We know crimes like shoplifting and sexual offences are still under-reported and I would encourage victims to come forward so we can offer them the help and support they need. With the government uplift and monies from our local communities, Devon and Cornwall Police is able to reach record officer numbers and is in a strong position to be able to respond to and prevent crime, but we cannot do that without the support and engagement of the communities we serve.”