Crime across the county is on the rise, with spikes in shoplifting, robberies and possession of weapons.

The latest Home Office data says there were 18,602 recorded crimes in the Dorset Council area from September 2022 until September 2023 - an overall increase of 1 per cent.

Shoplifting offences in the Dorset Council area increased by 54 per cent with a total 1,324 offences recorded.

The Echo had previously reported that across both local authorities in the county it had risen by 48 percent.

Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce president Paul Appleby remains hopeful that increased police activity will see things improve.

He said: "I've read that Dorset Police have scaled up and honed their response to shoplifting. It's our hope this year sees a dramatic improvement."

Dorset Police says it is taking action by working with Business Improvement Districts alongside local councils to target and help prevent shoplifting.

It also launched Operation Shopkeeper in November which targets ‘prolific’ offenders, part of a tactical plan in place to deal with shoplifters.

READ: Majority of shoplifting crimes unresolved in Dorset

Dorset Police’s temporary assistant chief constable, Neil Corrigan, said: “This is a whole system approach, starting from prevention through to the downstream sales of stolen goods.

“Op Shopkeeper has seen 16 offenders charged with 175 offences. From this there have been several custodial sentences, Criminal Behaviour Orders, fines and compensation awarded."

There were 34 more robberies across the year, a 49 per cent rise, whilst thefts rose by 11 per cent to 5,287.

Despite robberies having nearly doubled, Mr Corrigan says that the risk to the public ‘remains low’.

The police chief attributed the spike to a large number being ‘linked to business premises and shoplifting,’ and ‘involved young people’ known to each other or ‘individuals suffering from drug dependencies' targeting people they know.

The new figures also revealed that there were 138 reported incidents of people carrying weapons in the county - a rise of 34 per cent.

Dorset Council Cllr for Melcombe Regis, Jon Orell, has been left worried by the numbers and is concerned about the safety of young people caught up in it.

He said: "It’s a worrying statistic, we do hear more about knife crime these days and it appears to be among young people who are coerced as runners for county line drugs and criminal gangs and they end up being the casualties."

Mr Corrigan says the force are taking knife crime 'very seriously' and are committed to educating the public and removing knives from the streets.

Handheld metal detectors have also been distributed to teams across Dorset and will be in police vehicle to act as a supportive tool to assist stop and search powers.

Crimes involving stalking and harassment also increased by 13 per cent, the force says ‘could be reflected’ by an increase in reporting due to ‘a real drive across the county to promote awareness’.

This was backed by Paladin, a national stalking advocacy service, who said: “We generally find this to be the case when awareness is increased about these issues, both in general and within the relevant police forces.”  

Mr Corrigan continued: “We continue to raise awareness of stalking and harassment offences with our staff and officers to ensure that victims are listened to, supported and investigations are conducted as effectively as possible. All new recruits are trained in dealing with stalking and harassment offences.”

Violent crimes remained at almost identical levels though with 7690 offences recorded.

The crime figures put Dorset as the seventh safest force area in England and Wales and year-to-date figures not publicly available suggest crime is decreasing.

Mr Corrigan added:  “Some reductions in certain statistics reflect our ongoing hard work, however there is still work to be done.

“However, positively our current year-to-date figures are indicating an overall two per cent decrease compared to the same period last year."