There was a sharp rise in the number of violent crimes, sexual offences and domestic burglaries recorded by police in Dorset last year, new figures reveal.

It comes as the reduction in police officer numbers, including neighbourhood bobbies, is revealed.

Campaigners say there is a link between a rise in crime and a cut in officer numbers. 

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, violent crime across the county rose by 13 per cent from 12,216 to 13,745, with sexual offences rising by 14 per cent (1,295 to 1,478) and domestic burglaries increasing by 40 per cent from 1,538 to 2,146.

Statistics reveal a steep rise in the ‘violence with injury’ category at 22 per cent (4,232 to 5,134), the third highest increase across all police forces in England and Wales. There were also almost 300 more records of bicycle thefts from 1,010 to 1,309, a 30 percent increase. The figures, for the year ending September 2017, are compared to figures in the same period in the previous year ending September 2016. 

Overall, total recorded crime in Dorset rose by nine per cent, lower than the national average of 15 per cent. 

A spokesman for Dorset Police said: “Over the last two years we have worked closely with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) 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.”

They added that crime rises in recent years are also down to ‘increased confidence’ in people coming forward and reporting crime. 

“Violence with injury crime has increased by 22 per cent over this reporting period. This mainly due to the improved classification of crimes and the increased notification of crimes taking place in prison,” the spokesman said. 

“The force has also seen changes in the way some types of crime are recorded and categorised. Most significantly, changes to the classification of burglary. From April 1 2017, non-dwelling is now called ‘burglary business and community’ and dwelling is called ‘burglary residential’. 

“Break-ins to sheds and garages will be included in the burglary residential category rather than the current non-dwelling category. This is a national change.”

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said the rise in crime ‘follows a national trend’, and says there are ‘a number of reasons’ for the increase.

He said: “I have seen the work that the force has undertaken to comply with complex crime recording rules. This includes changing categorisation of crime, for example with malicious communications being brought under ‘harassment’ and therefore ‘violent crime’.

"Dorset Police has also worked hard to improve public confidence in reporting processes, particularly in areas such as domestic abuse and sexual offences. High profile cases nationally have brought attention to these crimes. That is not to say that there is not a genuine rise in crime contributing to this picture.

“Like all forces, Dorset Police faces a huge variety of challenges.

“Officers are dealing increasingly with complex crime, often involving a safeguarding element and understandably requiring additional time and resources.

“These resources are already under immense pressure, as are the resources of the many vital partner agencies that policing operates alongside.

“I am committed to bringing partners together to find solutions and ensure the best possible service is provided to Dorset residents.”

  • Mr Underhill has spoken out recently about the severe lack of funding for Dorset Police and its effect on policing in the county. The force has had its central government funding cut by more than £16 million over the last seven years​

Dorset Echo:

Dorset PCC Martyn Underhill 

Community beat officers accounted for almost half of the police posts axed in Dorset over the past five years.

The reduction in the amount of police officers including neighbourhood bobbies and community support officers between 2012 and 2017 is revealed in new data.

Dorset has been ranked as the fifth worst area in England in terms of the amount of officers it has lost. In the five-year period the county saw a reduction of 111.74 full time equivalent (FTE) of all officers.

Of this 48.43 (FTE) were neighbourhood officers and PCSOs. Data from the BBC shared data unit looked at policing numbers for 45 force areas, and whether there has been a reduction in the number of police officers, including those assigned to a community beat, between 2012 and 2017.

West Yorkshire and Devon and Cornwall have lost the most officers – 499 and 310.88 (FTE) respectively.

Overall, almost 11,000 police officer jobs have been axed in England and Wales, with around 1,500 of those in neighbourhood policing posts - around 14 per cent or one in seven. The number of police community support officers in England and Wales has also dropped from 14,393 to 10,205.

Dorset Police Assistant Chief Constable Julie Fielding said that despite the loss of officers, the force is committed to protecting the public.

She said: “As has been seen in other parts of the country, policing numbers have seen a reduction over the last five years. “Neighbourhood policing is at the centre of everything we do in Dorset and we remain committed toward supporting local communities who expect and deserve a visible policing presence.

“The role of neighbourhood officers and PCSOs is highly valued and they make an immensely important contribution to community engagement, tackling crime and disorder working with communities and partners.

“However, crime has changed and we must ensure our workforce reflects the modern demands we face. Increasingly these are complex and often hidden from public view such as online crime and child sexual exploitation, which are particularly impactive on victims. We have been very honest and open with the public while making these changes and we constantly assess threat, risk and harm to ensure that policing meets current challenges and demands.

“Neighbourhood policing is part of every police officer and PCSO’s business, which includes response officers, local investigation staff and other operational officers. “We also work closely with Devon and Cornwall police which helps us to manage some of our demand.”


Dorset Echo:

Assistant Chief Constable Julie Fielding

Community leaders have spoken out after seeing a decline in neighbourhood police officers on the streets.

Dave Burchill, a resident of the Park District in Weymouth and a local community forum member, said: “We never really see them unless they are in cars, and we don’t have the opportunity to speak with them.

“We need them out and about to show people what they are doing.

“They used to come to our youth club every two to three weeks to speak with the youngsters, but now we’re lucky if it’s once a year. It is ok for parents to speak with children, but they need some authority.”

Councillor Francis Drake, spokesman for community safety at Weymouth and Portland Borough Council said the lack of neighbourhood policing in Weymouth is not good enough.

He added: “Police have cut back on community officers. We don’t see policemen in Weymouth and Portland very often, unless they are going around in a police car.

“It is not good enough.”

Dorset Echo:

Cllr Francis Drake

Cllr Drake said there was a link between the rise in crime and reduction in neighbourhood police.

He said: “There is no argument about it. If you don’t have police walking around you will have more crime.

“Low level crime leads into big crime.

“It is very important we have neighbourhood policing.”

He also said he was disappointed about the lack of officers’ presence at community meetings.

He said: “Officers used to come to the youth centre to speak with children and to the neighbourhood watch meetings. That will be lost now, nobody will be go to those.”