RECORDED crime in Dorset rose by 8.7 per cent last year, official figures have shown.

The 'Crime in England and Wales: year ending September 2018' report was released, yesterday (Jan 24), by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Nationally, crimes being reported to police rose by 8.4 per cent, the paper revealed.

Latest figures show reported violent crime is on the rise in Dorset, with a 22 per cent increase in reports to police of violence against the person – compared with the twelve months up until September 2017.

However, the ONS report does state: "Police recorded crime can be affected by changes in policing activity and recording practice and by willingness of victims to report."

In Dorset there were 51,761 crimes reported to police in the year ending September 2018.

Of these crimes, five were murders, 5,965 were violence with injury, and 1,763 were sexual offences.

Reported sexual offences had risen by 22 per cent during the period.

On the overall reported crime rise, a Dorset Police spokesman said: "Improvements to the way Dorset Police records crimes, coupled with more robust enforcement, reflect the majority of this increase."

Public order offences appear to have spiralled by 48.7 per cent in Dorset, with an increase of 920 crimes.

In response, the police spokesman said: "This increase is largely to do with improved recording especially around the causing of harassment in a public place."

In Dorset, theft from a vehicle is down by 13.9 per cent. This is likely a general reflection of changing practices of people no longer leaving high value items in their cars, says Dorset Police.

"In terms of crimes per 1,000 population," said the spokesman, "Dorset ranks as the 14th safest county.

"Although there has been some genuine increase in crime, improvements in recording and a particular focus on violence categories accounts for a lot of this increase.

"Other reasons for the increase can be accounted by the impact of the changes to the recording of stalking and harassment."

Some 3,614 instances of stalking and harassment were reported to Dorset Police during the period, an increase on the previous year of 60 per cent.

Meanwhile, reported drug crime is down by 10 per cent, and shoplifting decreased by 11 per cent.