Portsmouth gripped by a surge in violent crime and sexual offences, worrying figures suggest

CRIME rates have surged in Portsmouth, with worrying figures suggesting violent criminals, sexual predators and stalkers are becoming more prevalent across the city.

Hampshire police has recorded 10,140 incidents of violent crime in the city in the 12 months to September, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This is an increase of three per cent compared to the previous year - a rise which has bucked the decreasing trend nationally.

At 47.2 crimes per 1,000 people, that was far higher than the rate across England and Wales, which stood at 32.3.

A library photo of police at a crime scene in Tangier Road, Baffins Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 201021-)

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One of the main factors behind the increase in Portsmouth was the rise in stalking and harassment, which rose by 24 per cent, from 2,419 incidents to 2,989.

Offences of violence without injury were recorded 4,165 times, an increase of two per cent on the previous year, and violence with injury on 2,984 occasions, down by 11 per cent.

There was one homicide – a category which includes murders and manslaughters. This was the same number as the previous 12 months.

Overall, the total number of offences in Portsmouth increased by two per cent, with police recording 24,806 crimes over the course of the year.

This puts the overall crime rate at 115.5 per 1,000 people, compared to a national average of 82.4.

Other crimes recorded in Portsmouth included:

:: 800 sexual offences, a decrease of five per cent,

:: 6,580 theft offences, a rise of two per cent

:: 2,175 incidents of criminal damage and arson, down six per cent.

:: 1,139 drug offences, up 11 per cent

:: 325 possession of weapons such as firearms or knives, up five per cent.

:: 3,035 public order offences, up eight per cent.

As previously reported, the city has seen a spate of stabbings and robberies involving teenagers.

When looking at crime nationally, police forces across England and Wales have logged the highest number of rapes and sexual offences in a 12-month period in the year to September, the ONS figures show.

Around 63,100 rapes were recorded in the year to September, according to the ONS, up 13 per cent from the previous period.

This was the highest recorded annual figure to date and included 17,400 offences between July and September – the highest quarterly figure.

The ONS said the latest figures may reflect several factors, including the ‘impact of high-profile incidents, media coverage and campaigns on people’s willingness to report incidents to the police, as well as a potential increase in the number of victims’, and it urged caution when interpreting the data.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: ‘Nobody should have to experience the horror of rape and other sexual crimes.

‘It’s encouraging that more victims of sexual violence are coming forward, and we’ve been clear that police must raise the bar in handling such cases so victims know that they will be taken seriously and criminals responsible are put behind bars.’

Portsmouth Chief Inspector Rob Mitchell said: ‘While we recognise an increase in recorded crime in Portsmouth as shown by the latest ONS statistics, this is not necessarily a negative thing.

‘For example, we expected to see increases in the recording of stalking and harassment crimes, in part due to changes in Home Office Counting Rules which came in to effect in 2018/19 which saw stalking and harassment recorded as individual offences. In addition, we have been improving our response to domestic abuse crimes to ensure that there is growth in victims finding the confidence to report these types of offences to us.

‘To give some background on this, in Hampshire we have the nationally-recognised Hampshire stalking clinic, which is a multi-agency clinic, commissioned by the Police and Crime Commissioner. The purpose of the clinic is to review cases of stalking as they are reported, and it’s made up of police, probation, the CPS, Southern Health’s mental health professionals and a dedicated victim advocate from Aurora New Dawn. They meet each month to review the highest risk cases and ensure everything possible is being done to stop perpetrator behaviours and safeguard victims.

‘In recent years the criminal justice system has also seen the introduction of stalking protection orders (SPOs). These give the police and partners vital powers to intervene early in cases of stalking, allowing police to apply to the courts for an order to impose restrictions on offenders. These restrictions could range from the offender having to stay away from their victim, to having to attend a rehabilitation program/seek treatment for mental health issues. Breaching the order will be a criminal offence which carries a jail sentence of up to five years.

‘While we have seen an overall increase in reported offences, importantly violence with injury and sexual offences are down. We welcome these decreases but recognise that Covid restrictions may have had an impact on these numbers. Most importantly, we want victims to feel confident in reporting incidents to us when they happen and be reassured that they will be listened to, supported and encouraged by police and other support agencies. Violence against women and girls and sexual offences remain a high priority for us and we continue to conduct dedicated patrols at key times around our bars and clubs, as well as working with licensed premises within the city around how they safeguard their customers.

‘We take a proactive approach to counter drug-related activity in Portsmouth. Our High Harm Team has continued to target drug-related activity, including County Lines and its associated violence, as well as working with partners to move young people away from this illicit trade. In addition, we are working hard to tackle and disrupt the use and supply of knives, targeting those responsible for creating fear in communities, identifying and dealing with habitual knife carriers and increasing prosecutions of knife crime.

‘We are investing time and resource into community engagement aimed at prevention of young people carrying knives, increasing their awareness around the risks involved and making better life choices through the Never Choose Knives campaign and school visits.

‘Our approach is not solely focused on enforcement, very important as it is, it also depends on engagement with communities and working with our partners as part of a public health approach to violence, dealing with the causes and not just the symptoms. We continue to work closely with our partners here in the city as a member of the Safer Portsmouth Partnership.

‘Lots of work is being done working with teachers, social and health workers to collate and share knowledge of people involved in knife crime and gangs. Engagement work and training is being delivered into schools, youth organisations, charities and health care providers.

‘We care about young people and are committed to crime prevention as we would always prefer to prevent them from being involved in crime, either as a victim or perpetrator, beforehand. We never want to see a young person hurt or in trouble if it can be prevented. The police are here to help and keep you safe. Fearless is part of the Crimestoppers charity, both are 100 per cent anonymous and totally independent of the police. You can report your concerns anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through the Fearless.org website. Always call 999, if there is an immediate threat to life.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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