Recorded crime has gone up by 11 per cent in Northumberland over the last 12 months.
And the rise has been ‘exponential’ over a longer period, the chief of Northumbria Police admitted, ‘to the point where actually if we went back 10 years, we are hundreds of per cent more’.
Addressing last Wednesday’s full meeting of Northumberland County Council, Chief Constable Winton Keenan said: “Some of that, I assure you and I’m looking you in the eye to tell you this, is down to the better recording practices we now adopt.
“The increased confidence of people to come forward in the knowledge that they will be believed has undoubtedly led to an increase in recorded crime, however, I am being really straight with you to say that there has been an actual uplift in some types of criminality across Northumbria.
“But if I was to ask you, do you feel any less safe walking out of County Hall into Morpeth to do your shopping than five years ago, you will probably say no.
“If it was 300 per cent, believe me, you’d be feeling it out there.”
Earlier in the meeting, Chief Constable Keenan said: “First of all, I would like to genuinely say that you are policed by a very good force. You would expect me to say that, but it’s not just me that says that, the likes of HMIC (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies) and all sorts of other people say that.
“In all the surveys, the inspections, we come out as being good, but we can become better and we need to become better for those who you represent and those we live and work among.”
Reflecting that confidence in Northumbria Police is high – and not by chance but through efforts over the years – he adds that there is concern about a deterioration of neighbourhood policing.
“The truth is, the world of policing is becoming more challenging,” he said. “The public, those you represent, have really high expectations of what we can and should do for them.
“Unfortunately some of those expectations we have for all the right reasons are becoming ever more difficult to honour and that’s going to increase because the complexity of crime, as you will all know, is changing massively (for example, cyber crime).”
He also praised the work of his officers against the background of changes and cuts – £136million since 2010: “They are working on behalf of those you represent far harder than they have ever done.
“I’m finding it a challenge now to find the ways we can balance that which we need to do with the resources we have.
“This isn’t about please excuse all our ills because we haven’t got any money, but we are having to make some very difficult decisions.”
Nonetheless, the Northumbria force area remains one of the, if not the, safest areas in the country, he said, with Newcastle one of the safest cities in which to live, work and visit.
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Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service