County crime rate up, but down in some West Norfolk communities

Police sealed off woodland at the rear of Lynn's Fairstead Estate after the body of a man was found. Arrests have been made. ANL-140918-102027009

Police sealed off woodland at the rear of Lynn's Fairstead Estate after the body of a man was found. Arrests have been made. ANL-140918-102027009

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Crime is rising in some parts of West Norfolk, but police chiefs say you should not be worried by the trend.

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show the overall crime rate in the county rose by 14 per cent last year, compared to 2013.

And the Norfolk force’s own online crime maps show the number of offences recorded in Lynn was up by around eight per cent over the same period.

In the Downham policing area, which also covers villages including Denver, Hilgay, Nordelph, Southery, Methwold, Feltwell, Emneth and Welney, crime rose by around 11.5 per cent over the same period, equating to just over 200 additional offences.

And cases in the Swaffham area, which also includes the Pickenhams, Necton, Beachamwell and Oxborough, were also up by around four per cent.

But the Hunstanton and Burnham policing area, which includes Heacham, Snettisham, Docking and the Creakes, bucked the trend, showing a seven per cent fall in recorded crimes.

Incidents in the Fakenham area were also down by almost five per cent.

The figures were discussed at the latest meeting of the county’s police accountability forum, between commissioner Stephen Bett and chief constable Simon Bailey, on Wednesday.

Following the meeting, a Norfolk Police spokesman said: “This increase was anticipated following a renewed focus on the quality of crime recording.

“Improved working has resulted in more crimes being recorded; particularly in certain areas including sexual offences, public order offences and violence against a person.

“The increases do not necessarily mean more crime is happening, rather there is greater consistency when recording crime and that victims have confidence in coming forward.”

And Mr Bett said of what he had heard: “What has come forward from the meeting today is what I expected.”

The figures do show a 14 per cent fall in cases of vehicle crime and a six per cent drop in burglaries.

But they also reveal a 47 per cent increase in sexual offences and a 36 per cent jump in violent crimes.

Mr Bett said a large proportion of the reported sex cases were historic, which he believes demonstrates an increase confidence among victims to report their abusers in the belief that officers will investigate.

However, he has also called for Mr Bailey to publish a breakdown of the types of offences which are now classed as violent crime.

He said incidents including the sending of malicious text messages now have to be recorded as violent offences.

He argued that creates a misleading impression and insisted that hospital accident and emergency units would be “over-run” if what he classed as violent crime was truly rising.

“They are getting less people through their doors,” he said.