CRIME levels across Dorset have increased, with sharp rises in the number of reported sexual offences, robberies and violent offences.

The latest figures show that from in 2017, 48,717 crimes were logged by Dorset Police, an increase of 11 per cent from the previous year.

However Dorset Police says this is largely due to people having more confidence to report crimes and improved reporting systems.

Theft offences in the county broke the 20,000 mark over the calender year (21,364 reported cases) after an increase of 10 per cent from 2016.

Reported robberies were up 29 per cent, while violence against the person and sexual offences increased by 15 and 19 per cent respectively. The latter figure saw the number of reports rise to 1,535.

Chief Superintendent Ben Hargreaves said: “Over the last two years we have worked closely with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services and the Police and Crime Commissioner to improve our compliance with complex Home Office rules on how crime must be recorded, which has been helped by the introduction of new computer systems.

"Like other forces, we have also seen crime rises in recent years due to increased confidence in people coming forwards to us. This is particularly the case for crimes such as domestic abuse and sexual offences, where increased reporting follows a number of high-profile investigations nationally and work locally to support victims.

"The force will continue to place a strong emphasis on our reporting responsibilities, even if this leads to an increase in reported crime, as accurate crime reporting is essential to maintain public trust.

He added that a review of Dorset Police’s efficiency and leadership in November saw the force graded as ‘good’ for keeping people safe, reducing crime and overall.

"Savings of £32.2m have been made over the last spending review period with an increasing focus on the strategic alliance with Devon & Cornwall Police," Chief Superintendent Hargreaves added.

"The force aims to achieve further savings in the future through continued collaborative working and the exploration of a full merger between the two forces, uniting Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police into one police force.

"Violence with injury crime has increased. This is mainly due to the improved classification of crimes and the increased notification of crimes taking place in prison. Violence against the person as an overall category saw a rise. In addition to the above this was also due to an increase in lower level violence such as violence without injury, harassment including malicious communication and those that occur online.

"Dorset remains an incredibly safe place to live, work and visit."

Crime reports are up in seven of the nine police crime groups, with only drug and possession of weapons offences showing a decline.

In England and Wales more than 4.8million offences were reported in 2017, which equated to an increase of 15 per cent.

Despite the assurances from Dorset Police, the force’s federation says with the increase in crime is inevitable for a different reason.

Anna Harvey, deputy chair of Dorset Police Federation, said: “Police numbers are down, demand is up and therefore it is clear that crime is going to increase. Police chief constables need more funding to recruit more police officers.

“Our officers out there and desk staff are doing their utmost to deal with the demand. We have the knock-on effect of then dealing with our officers and supporting them with all they do.”

Dorset PCC Martyn Underhill said he has worked with Dorset Police to enhance crime recording systems.

“While this partially explains why Dorset follows the national trend, seeing total recorded crime going up, it is also true that in some areas crime is genuinely rising,” Mr Underhill said.

“I will continue to lobby Government to reconsider the police funding formula, which disadvantages smaller rural forces like Dorset. But in the meantime, we cannot sit still.”

Mr Underhill said the introduction of PCSIs and the possible of merger with Devon & Cornwall Police will allow the force to continue to meet demands. It has recently been announced that PCSIs will be introduced in Dorset to take on investigatory work in relation to low threat crimes, freeing up police officer time to tackle high risk crimes. This is just one example of how Dorset Police is innovating in order to provide the best possible service to the public.

He added: "I am pleased that my decision to increase the policing precept locally will allow for resources and remodelling to allow the Force to better deal with demand. It has never been so important to make best use of available resources to keep people safe.”

Across the nine police offence groups, the figures for Dorset crime in 2017 are:

  • n Criminal damage and arson increased by six per cent (6,696 up from 6,330)

  • Drug offences decreased by five per cent (1,565 down from 1,645)

  • Miscellaneous crimes increased by 29 per cent (751 up from 580)

  • Public order offences increased by nine per cent (1,917 up from 1,752)

  • Robbery increased by 29 per cent (286 up from 221)

  • Sexual offences increased by 19 per cent (1,535 reports up from 1,287)

  • Theft offences increased by 10 per cent (21,364 up from 19,394)

  • Violence against the person increased by 15 per cent (14,329 up from 12,499)

  • Weapon offences decreased by three per cent (274 down from 282)