Yorkshire’s largest police force is warning that crime could be on the rise again after years of decline, despite official figures showing it bucked the national trend last year.
Data from the Office for National Statistics, released yesterday, showed there were 157,872 crimes recorded by West Yorkshire Police in 2014-15, two per cent lower than the previous year.
While recorded crime nationally rose three per cent, the number of offences in Yorkshire and the Humber as a whole remained virtually unchanged.
Of the region’s four police forces, West Yorkshire was the only one to record a drop in crime. South Yorkshire and Humberside saw rises of around two and one per cent respectively, while recorded crime in North Yorkshire remained relatively unchanged year-on-year.
However, analysis of crimes recorded by West Yorkshire Police for January to April of this year shows an increase of 16.5 per cent compared with the same period last year. The force says stricter procedures for recording crime largely explain the rise.
But Temporary Chief Constable Dee Collins said: “On top of this, we have also seen a slight actual rise in crime after a sustained period of crime reduction lasting many years.”
Following a 20-year decline in recorded crime, Miss Collins admitted the growth in the numbers was “concerning”, adding: “West Yorkshire Police officers and staff work incredibly hard to serve and protect the public, but as our resources and those of our partner agencies continue to diminish, that job becomes increasingly difficult.”
Across the region, excluding fraud offences, there were 352,318 recorded crimes last year, a marginal increase on the 351,564 in 2013-14.
The numbers of house burglaries fell three per cent, thefts from people dropped 19 per cent and vehicle crime rates were five per cent lower year-on-year.
However, sexual offences were up by almost 50 per cent and violent offences rose 22 per cent.
Humberside had the highest rate of sexual offences in the country, with an average of almost one crime for every 500 people.
There were 29 per cent more sexual crimes in the force area last year.
In common with police forces across the country, Humberside said improved crime data recording and the greater willingness of victims to report crimes was largely responsible for the rise.
A force spokeswoman added: “For violent crime nationally, there appears to be less than a one per cent increase in calls to the police for service over the last year but a 23 per cent rise in police recording.
“In addition to improved confidence, a significant number of reports of rape or sexual offences relate to offences committed over a year ago. The reporting of high profile cases such as Operation Yewtree is contributing to this rise.”
Despite the rise in recorded crime, the national victims’ survey, based on responses given by a sample of the public, found there had been a seven per cent fall in crime in 2014-15.
Criminal Justice Minister Mike Penning said the figures were evidence police reforms were working.
“This is good news for a safer England and Wales,” he said.
But the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, reiterated concern about shrinking officer numbers.
Federation chairman Steve White said: “The bottom line is that officer numbers are still falling while certain types of crime are showing a worrying rise.”