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Office of National Statistcs (ONS) crime data (2014) for Devon and Cornwall (IoS)

The latest ONS crime data for Devon and Cornwall for the period ending 31st December 2014 shows an overall improvement. The force has moved up to 6th place in a national league table of performance.

18 months ago we highlighted that the rates of reduction in overall crime achieved in Devon & Cornwall were not as good as those achieved elsewhere across the country. We highlighted particular challenges in increases in violent crime, shoplifting and public order offences. In addition we specifically challenged the effectiveness of summer policing following large increases in crime over the summer months of 2013.

The data released today supports the view that Devon & Cornwall police has responded well to these challenges. The summer crime figures last year showed a significant improvement on those reported for the previous year and the force have continued to build on this. In addition both shoplifting and public order offences are showing further reductions. Year end performance data for the period to end of March 2015 released by Devon & Cornwall Police support these trends.

Total crime is reported to have reduced by 4% in Devon & Cornwall against a national position of 1% increase in the last 12 months.
The Force’s position in the national league table has improved to 6th, with the rate of offending per 1000 population remaining unchanged at 48 offences per 1000.

The main drivers of this improvement are increases in violence against the person (4%) in Devon & Cornwall that are considerably less than the rate of increase for England and Wales (21%) and continuing good performance across the spectrum of acquisitive crime and especially in relation to serious acquisitive crime (burglary and vehicle offences). Significant reductions in public order offences have also contributed to the good performance.

Earlier data releases have shown that lower level violence has been increasing at a higher rate in Devon and Cornwall but this trend is not apparent within the latest publication with the rate of increase in Devon & Cornwall is less than half that for England & Wales.
Overall the Force is ranked the 5th lowest for domestic burglary and ranked the 5th lowest for vehicle crime.
Reductions in non-domestic burglary and vehicle offences are greater than the national average.
Violence with injury is showing a small reduction (1%) in Devon & Cornwall against an increase elsewhere of 15%. Devon & Cornwall is now ranked 16th highest nationally for violence against the person and this shift away from the highest rates of violent crime is apparent in relation to both violence with and without injury. There is now compelling evidence that there has been a shift in the severity of violence within the violence with injury offence category with reductions in the most serious offence types (GBH for e.g.) and reductions in violence with injury overall.

A similar shift in rank is also apparent in relation to sexual offences with Devon & Cornwall now ranked 13th nationally, although the number of recorded offences in Devon & Cornwall continue to increase the rate of increase is almost half that seen nationally. We have listened to partner agencies that provide support to victims of sexual abuse to understand the extent to which this increase reflects improved confidence in victims to come forward and report to the police. Feedback has suggested that more victims are indeed coming forward. Potential drivers of this include improvements in victim’s service provision, the ‘Savile’ effect where high profile media cases influence reporting among victims and increases in reported domestic violence related sexual abuse. We continue to acknowledge this increase as a positive trend and to challenge the police to ensure that victims receive a high standard of support.

Public order offences are also showing similar strong performance against the national trend with Devon moving further down the league table to a current position of 9th highest rate of offending. This contrasts to the position 9 months ago when the force had the highest rate of public order offences.

Low level violence (violence without injury) continues to show a significant increase, albeit at a lower rate than apparent elsewhere. These offences involve physical contact in the absence of any injury, a shove for example. Offences range from altercations between neighbours and school children to disagreements between siblings. Resolving these issues will require co-operation with partner agencies such as education, health and local authorities. The OPCC are working with the police to build deeper understanding among partners of the issues and to support information sharing to prevent offending and to address the root causes.
Summer policing figures were so good last year, even in the face of high visitor numbers that the baseline for the summer months this year may prove challenging. Nonetheless we still require the police to continue to deliver reductions in victim-based crime.

The renewed focus on the quality of crime recording is likely to have prompted improved compliance with national standards in some police forces, leading to more crimes being recorded. This is thought to have particularly affected the police recorded figures for violence against the person and public order offences. It is possible to speculate that some part of the improvement in relative performance in Devon & Cornwall is due to other forces tightening up their crime recording processes.

Dr Karen Mellodew

Performance and Customer Services Manager

Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Devon and Cornwall