REPORTS of violent crime have soared in Dorset – and claims of sex offences are up by a quarter, according to new figures.

The latest home office figures show that crime in our county has now risen above the national average. Total recorded crime rose by 10.7 per cent. Nationally, the figure was 7.8 per cent.

Violent crime is up by 27 per cent from 14,852 reports to 18,863 in 2018/19.

The number of reported sex offences also rose by 25 per cent, with 1,980 in 2019 compared to 1,583 in 2018.

The latests crime figures were released by the Office for National Statistics this week.

Offences of stalking and harassment rose by a huge 85 per cent from 2,465 to 4,581, with public order offences and robberies also showing noticeable increases.

Reported theft offences, however, slightly dropped from 20,916 in 2018 to 20,458 in 2019.

Dorset Police's Deputy Chief Constable David Lewis has insisted that the county remains one of the safest places to live in England or Wales.

"Latest figures on recorded crime in Dorset has shown an increase," he said.

"While there has been some genuine increase in crime, improvements to the way Dorset Police records crimes, coupled with more robust enforcement, also forms part of this increase.

"Public order offences are up by 56 per cent in Dorset. This increase is largely from improved recording, particularly around the recording of harassment in public places and threatening behaviour."

DCC Lewis added that the rise in violent crime is partly down to the impact of crime recording improvements, and that stalking and harassment figures are impacted by it being listed as a separate offence from April 2018.

In terms of crimes per 1,000 population, Dorset ranks as the 12th safest county in the country, up from 13th in the 12 month period to December 2018," he said.

"While there has been a rise in crime, the likelihood of being a victim is still very low and Dorset remains a one of the safest counties to live, work and visit in the country."

Knife crime in England and Wales hit a record high in 2018/19, up eight per cent on the previous year.

Police recorded 43,516 offences involving knives or sharp objects in the year to March 2019, the highest since comparable records began in 2011.

In Dorset, the number of knife crimes in 2018/2019 dropped from 175 to 173.

Total police-recorded crime, excluding fraud and computer misuse, stood at 5.26 million offences in 2018/19 - up from 4.88 million in 2017/18.