Crime spikes in North Somerset, with weapons, violence and drugs on the rise
PUBLISHED: 07:00 08 August 2017 | UPDATED: 09:08 08 August 2017
Crime in North Somerset has risen by more than half since 2014, with a 17 per cent increase in crimes in the past year alone.
In 2016/17 a little more than 15,300 crimes were reported in the district, with police recording more home burglaries, knife crimes, drug dealing offences, sexual assaults and violent offences.
More than 30 per cent of all crimes committed in North Somerset in the past year involved violence, but the most common type of crime is theft, which accounted for almost 40 per cent of all offences.
Why is crime rising?
Local policing commander for North Somerset Chief Inspector Tina Robinson told the Mercury: “It’s important our communities understand the facts behind the numbers; statistics alone can be misleading and alarming and don’t necessarily reflect the true picture.”
She said police have seen an increase in crime nationwide, due to an improvement in the way crime is recorded which was first introduced in 2014.
Police have seen success in tackling many issues in North Somerset; cycle theft has dropped by 23 per cent which means just one bike is stolen for every 1,000 people living in the district, theft from a person has dropped by nine per cent, and the number of recorded criminal damage and arson incidents has fallen by five per cent.
CI Robinson said neighbourhood teams are working with communities and partners to reduce crime, with a particular focus on antisocial behaviour and criminal damage.
There were 6,065 thefts in North Somerset during 2016/17, compared to 5,600 the previous year.
Offences range from car thefts to burglary and shoplifting and bike theft.
Shoplifting has risen by 35 per cent in the past year, and CI Robinson said: “We know in some cases there is a correlation between deprivation, addiction and acquisitive crime, but not always. North Somerset has some of the most and least deprived areas in the country.
“Shoplifting is committed by a diverse range of people ranging from those with addiction issues to more organised criminals and sometimes people who ‘forget’ to pay for all of their items.”
She said repeat offenders are managed by the force’s impact teams and often get help from other agencies, while the force is also supporting shops and businesses.
While non-domestic burglary dropped by 18 per cent, home burglaries rose by eight per cent.
CI Robinson said reducing burglary is a priority, and said: “We don’t underestimate how traumatic and unsettling a burglary is for victims. For many, the emotional devastation caused often far outlasts the time it takes to deal with the physical mess and replacing belongings.”
Data shows as many as a third of burglaries involve insecure properties and the force has this week launched its ‘BeHomeSafe’ campaign.
Researchers worked with 33 burglars in prison in Bristol who said they would often get in using an unlocked back door and would spend the most time in people’s bedrooms, where small and more lucrative items are stored.
The force’s new campaign is reminding people to hide valuables, lock doors and windows, and avoid posting about being away from home on social media.
Detective Superintendent Carolyn Belafonte said: “We know often people don’t secure their homes because of the misplaced belief that ‘it won’t happen to me’. But this message straight from the mouths of burglars gives clear advice about the simple steps we need to take to protect our homes.”
North Somerset has seen a 94 per cent rise – from 52 to 101 – in the number of weapon possession offences; a rise beaten by only two other community policing areas in the country, with nearby Bristol experiencing just an 11 per cent rise.
North Somerset Chief Inspector Tina Robinson said the force is ‘proactively tackling’ organised crime and drug dealing in the area and out-of-town and local drug dealers have been arrested.
She said: “These individuals often operate using intimidation in relation to rival drug networks. As a result there have been arrests for weapon offences in addition to those relating to drug dealing.
“It is important to note these tactics of violence and intimidation are in the main used between rival drug networks and not directed at the public.”
The force also hosted a knife amnesty campaign which saw 198 knives handed in during one week in June, compared to 59 during the same campaign in 2016.
The number of sexual offences has gone up by eight per cent in the past year, with 345 recorded in North Somerset. CI Robinson said it’s ‘encouraging’ to see more people telling the police about sexual offences, which are historically under-reported.
She added: “We have worked extremely hard to increase the public’s trust and confidence in us… and I believe we are now seeing a greater willingness to report as a result.”
She said the force is working with clubs and pubs to give staff additional training to reduce inappropriate touching, which is classed as sexual assault, and added: “It isn’t acceptable and we want to encourage victims to report it and for others to think about their behaviour.”
But she did say the term ‘sexual offences’ covers a broad spectrum of crimes, she said: “The term can be misleading and is used to classify crimes ranging from touching over clothing to rape. This isn’t to say so-called ‘lesser crimes’ are any less distressing for victims, but it is important to understand the make-up of the statistics.”