Norfolk records highest crime rate since records began, with sharp rises in sexual offences, violent crimes and harassment
Norfolk’s crime rate has risen to its highest level since records began, driven by sharp rises in sexual offences, violent crimes and harassment.
A total of 69,226 offences were committed in the county in the year up to March 2022 – more than the previous high of 69,222 in 2003, the year the data was first collected.
The figure is also a 10.6 per cent increase on 2020/2021, when crime levels were affected by Covid restrictions.
Among the biggest rises were sexual offences (up 25 per cent on the year before, to 3,244), violent crimes causing injury (up 22 per cent to 8,311) and harassment offences (up 10 per cent to 10,872).
Some categories of crimes saw falls, including burglary (down nine per cent to 2,041) and drug offences (down 21 per cent to 2,262).
As well as the overall record crime level, four of the county’s seven council areas also reported unprecedented highs.
What is behind the rise?
Experts say the overall increase is partly attributable to the removal of Covid restrictions, and the reopening of bars and nightclubs, as well as longer term trends such as better reporting and recording of certain offences, such as domestic violence.
It also comes at a time of growing demand on police resources, with officers’ time increasingly taken up on non-crime related issues, such as missing people, those in mental health crisis and other medical emergencies.
However, Norfolk’s crime rate remains far lower than many other parts of the country.
The data, from the Office for National Statistics, shows that overall crime rate for England and Wales rose by 16 per cent on the previous year, with 5,335,806 offences.
Norfolk’s Conservative police and crime commissioner Giles Orpen-Smellie said he would be raising the local data the chief constable “to better understand the reason for such an increase.”
Is social media fuelling harassment?
Tim Adams, leader of North Norfolk District Council and a member of the Norfolk Police and Crime Panel, said use of social media might be a factor in the rise in harassment offences.
“For me, fraud is going to be one of the biggest crime issues to come, what with the use of the internet and cost-of-living concerns. Social media may also lead to an increase in harassment,” he added.
He said he was surprised by the overall rise, but went on: “Without a doubt Norfolk is still a safe place to live and work.
“While disturbing, sexual offences and violent crimes are usually carried out by people who are known to each other.
“And with more awareness surrounding these issues, more and more people are coming forward to report these types of crimes.
“Burglary has been decreasing over the past few years, likely due to lockdown as well as home security and greater protection tools now available.
“I am surprised to hear that drug offences are down though. I am still concerned over the use of drugs, namely cannabis, in public areas.”
Les Rowlands, association lead for Norfolk Neighbourhood Watch Network, said: “Crime generally across the UK has been rising for some time, especially after coming out of lockdown.
“Norfolk is not as immune to crime as it perhaps once was.
“Burglary reduction could be due to more community groups like Neighbourhood Watch working together to share information via social media, more people continuing to work from home so fewer homes unattended, and the steady increase in resources being channelled into local neighbourhood policing.”
The biggest single increase in Norfolk was for homicide, with 14 recorded in 2021/22, compared with four the year before.
Chief constable’s view
Norfolk’s chief constable, Paul Sanford, said: “Any increase in crime will always be concerning but, with the impact of the pandemic still being seen, it limits how much we can make year on year comparisons.
“The volume of demands being tackled by the constabulary at the moment is at record levels. We are, in particular, experiencing a high volume of calls relating to non-crime related issues such as missing people, those in mental health crisis, medical emergencies and in recent days weather related calls.
“As we respond to these growing pressures we will continue to prioritise those issues which present the greatest risk of harm to our residents and the crimes that cause the greatest impact in our communities.
He pointed out that Norfolk had the second lowest rate of burglaries of any English or Welsh police force area, second only to Devon and Cornwall.
And he added that improvements in crime recording, new legislation and a greater willingness in victims to speak out may help explain the increases in violence and sexual offences.
“However, we recognise how difficult it is for a victim of sexual offences or stalking and harassment to report it and engage with the criminal justice process required by the courts,” he said, adding that his officers would always work with victims to help them engage with the criminal justice system.
Behind the numbers: a criminologist’s view
Dr Paul Andell, a professor in criminology at the University of Suffolk, stressed the difficulty of tackling different types of crime simultaneously, saying: “Crime is a bit like a balloon – you squeeze it in one area and it pops up in another.”
He said the decreased rate in burglaries could partly have been caused by the dwindling cost of household goods.
“The cost of white goods such as microwaves, fridges and the like, where at one point you might have seen somebody running up the street with a big telly under their arm – these goods are so inexpensive now, and so disposable, that they’re not nearly as viable within the grey economy as they used to be,” he said.
The reopening of alcohol-fuelled environments like pubs and clubs could meanwhile have played a part in Norfolk’s 13 per cent increase in public order offences since the year ending March 2021.
On stalking, Dr Andell acknowledged that more victims feeling able to come forwards was a good thing, but he pointed out that the percentage of charges in the county has not kept pace with the increase in reported offences.
Which offences increased and decreased compared with 2021?
Sexual offences: +25 per cent (3,244 offences in the year to March 2022)
Burglary: -9 per cent (2,041)
Violence with injury: +22 per cent (8,311)
Drug offences: -21 per cent (2,262)
Bicycle theft: +23 per cent (1,014)
Which parts of the county saw record numbers of offences?
Breckland: 8,996 (record high)
Broadland: 6,131 (record high)
Great Yarmouth: 11,592
King’s Lynn and West Norfolk: 10,175
North Norfolk: 5,590 (record high)
South Norfolk: 7,021 (record high)