Recession may be cause of robbery rise

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The recession is thought to be among the causes of a rise in robberies in Portsmouth, The News can reveal.

New figures show more than six robberies are committed in our area each week on average.

In total 246 robberies were reported to police in Portsmouth in the last year – up eight per cent on 2009/10.

Police say 101 were committed in the central policing area, which covers Fareham, Gosport, Havant and Winchester. And 1,063 of the crimes were reported across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

But Hampshire Constabulary figures show all other crimes apart from vehicle crime – which rose two per cent to 1,859 reports – fell in Portsmouth in the last year. Overall there has been a 13 per cent drop in reported crime in the city in the last two years.

In the Fareham, Gosport, Havant and Winchester areas serious violent crime and non-dwelling burglaries rose but all other crimes fell.

Police commander for Portsmouth, Superintendent Norman Mellors, said: ‘The overall reduction in crime over two years is evidence of the professional expertise of officers and staff working in Portsmouth. It’s also fair to acknowledge the support they received from within the community in their efforts to reduce crime, which over a two-year period has fallen by 13 per cent overall.

‘My professional attitude has always been that one crime is one crime too many so I’m concerned about the increase in robbery and in the theft from motor vehicles in the last year within the city.

‘To place this in context however, robbery had increased by 19 (reports) in this 12-month period and car crime has increased on average by two crimes per week across the whole city.

‘Reasons for these increases are hard to generalise, however statisticians often link periods of economic hardship to increasing incidents of acquisitive crime such as robbery and theft from vehicles.’

Hampshire Constabulary Deputy Chief Constable Andy Marsh said the rise in robberies in Portsmouth could be down to the economic climate. He said: ‘Robbery is a rare offence, but if we don’t catch the people who commit these offences they often go on to reoffend, so we have been working with our partners to concentrate on three areas: offenders, victims and locations.

‘It is also important to realise that although there might have been an increase in robberies in Portsmouth last year, if we compare the rate to similar cities the rate is actually 34 per cent lower.

‘There has been a large increase in robbery recently with the rate of offences most comparable cities either increasing or remaining static.

‘That could be because of a number of factors, possibly even the economy, but Portsmouth is generally a very low-crime city.’

Overall crime fell six per cent across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight from 142,152 reports to 133,582 in 2010/11. But there were still more than 365 crimes a day on average across the area.

Deputy chief constable Marsh added: ‘There have been a number of changes in the way we respond to the victims of offences, and an increased emphasis on catching criminals and managing offenders.

‘So if someone commits a crime and we know about it we are more likely to take positive action against them.

‘We aspire to operate with the lowest possible cost and high performance, and although there is a big improvement we still have a lot of work to do.’

Force-wide there was a 19 per cent drop in criminal damage reports to 24,492 offences and a 14 per cent fall in rowdy and nuisance behaviour incidents to 60,240.

Police say the success is down to efforts made to strengthen neighbourhood policing and a dedicated campaign to tackle anti-social behaviour last summer involving extra patrols in hotspot areas.

Another campaign is set to run this summer.’

Chief constable welcomes figures

HAMPSHIRE’S top policeman has vowed to drive down crime further – despite battling to save £20m in the next year due to the government’s spending squeeze.

Chief Constable Alex Marshall has welcomed a six per cent drop in crime reports across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight – from 142,152 in 2009/10 to 133,582 last year.

It comes as the force faces cuts of up to £50m by 2015. Already at least 250 police staff and 161 officer posts have been axed save cash. About 300 police officer and 700 staff jobs are expected to be cut in the next four years.

But despite tough times ahead - which look set to include shutting police stations and merging more services with neighbouring forces – Mr Marshall is determined to continue to reduce crime. He said: ‘We will continue to provide an excellent service, reduce crime, respond to emergencies and target those individuals who commit crime and prey on the vulnerable.’