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Latest crime stats reinforce the need to report crime

In this week's blog Alison talks about how crime reporting helps build a better understanding of the crime and community safety issues.

Those who have never had the misfortune to have their home or place of work burgled might be forgiven for thinking that it ranks as a ‘minor’ crime. After all, as long as you are properly insured your property can be replaced, locks can be fixed and life can go on?

If only that were the case. Unfortunately the impact of a burglary isn’t just on the financial loss of replacing stolen goods and repairing any damage. It can have a significant effect on the victims’ emotional and mental health and their sense of feeling safe at home or in a place of work.

The thought of someone being in your home can be the most distressing aspect of having your home burgled. Research by the insurer Allianz said that it takes around eight months for those who have been burgled to feel safe in their homes again.

Thankfully burglary is not a common crime in Devon and Cornwall – we have the lowest rate of residential burglary in the country and the second lowest rate for all kinds of burglary.  I am pleased to see the numbers of burglaries in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly fall 7% from 6,199 in 2017 to 5,761 in 2018.

Some of the figures unveiled in the latest report from the Office of National Statistics on Thursday (April 25th) have to be read with caution because of changes to the way many crimes are recorded and categorised, but for several offences – burglary included – they are comparable, and 438 fewer burglary victims must be cause for some celebration. For the unfortunate people who do become victims of this invasive crime I would encourage you to seek support from our victim care services.

As a whole recorded crime in the force area went up 6% in 2018 compared to a rise nationally of just 7%. The huge rises in recorded crime we saw in recent times as improvements in crime recording practices were made (there was a reported 23% rise from 2016 to 2017) are largely a thing of the past.

One area where recorded crime still doesn’t tell the full story is around shoplifting. There were 7,725 cases last year in our force area, a 4% fall on the previous year when 8,020 cases were reported. Unlike burglary though, where we can be confident that the vast majority of cases result in a call to police, I know that shoplifting is a crime that is significantly under-reported, particularly by some large retail chains. People forget that businesses can be the victims of crime too.

Perhaps they are prepared to write off a certain amount of stock, their businesses can bear the losses or they don’t think they have the time to report these crimes? But it is really important that crimes are reported. Perhaps a shoplifter will get away with their crime even if it is reported? But what may seem like an isolated incident may be the gateway for the police to solve many other crimes associated with that individual and other victims avoided.

Not only might a shoplifter target another business that perhaps can’t afford to lose stock but a failure to report crime means that it’s hard for the police to build up a truly accurate picture of offending and then organise itself accordingly.

Making sure crimes like shoplifting and thefts from vans are reported properly is a key part of a business crime approach developed by my office.

The aim is to build a better understanding of the crime and community safety issues affecting businesses, and provide clear opportunities for the role businesses can play in preventing and reducing crime.

It will improve support and assistance for victims and increase the opportunities for businesses to support wider community safety initiatives.

Its desired affect might be to actually increase the levels of some types of recorded crime to ensure an accurate picture going forward, much as we have seen an increase in the levels of stalking which are reported in Devon and Cornwall, which went from 227 in 2017 to 434 last year. A greater awareness of this crime in our communities and within the police force, coupled with improvements to the way cases are recognised, has led to this 91% year on year increase.

One day I hope to be celebrating a genuine reduction in all the force’s crime figures, but before that we need them to be reliable and accurate, and that’s something we can all help with by making sure no crime goes unreported. I realise people have busy lives and businesses to run but there are now many different ways people can contact the police to report crime.

You can report a crime by calling 101, email 101@dc.police.uk, use the police’s online reporting form or using web chat online atdevon-cornwall.police.uk. If you have been a victim of crime you can receive free help and advice online viavictimcaredevonandcornwall.org.uk or over the phone on 01392 475900. Information can be passed anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or via Crimestoppers-uk.org.