Warning of surge in burglaries as serial offenders leave prison

THE number of burglaries in Wakefield and surrounding towns could surge in the coming months as a group of serial offenders are released from prison, a new report has warned.

Theft and robbery-type offences have fallen by five per cent in the past five years, but that compares with a national drop of 14 per cent, and they now make up almost 60 per cent of crimes in the Wakefield Council area.

The figures are revealed in a new report identifying the crime and anti-social behaviour problems that the district is likely to face in the months ahead.

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Burglary, robbery, violence and certain types of theft including metal and shoplifting are all considered to be “areas of concern”.

The report, compiled by Wakefield Council using official data, warns: “At present, a number of prolific burglary offenders are coming up to their prison release dates, and this will pose a risk to burglary rates over the coming months.”

The number of drug offences recorded jumped by 24 per cent last year but this followed a long police operation targeting the problem in the centre of Wakefield.

There is also concern about a rise in the use of the drug M-Cat, also known as meow meow, which is considered to be cheaper and more widely available than other substances.

Violent crime has seen a significant fall, with domestic incidents responsible for a third of offences.

Overall, crime fell by 2.5 per cent in the year to July, with criminal damage, car theft and sexual offences among the offences seeing the biggest declines.

The level of satisfaction with police has also risen over the past six years with 86 per cent of people now content with the service they receive and the public less worried about vandalism and nuisance caused by young people.

The report shows that while the risk of becoming a victim of violent crime is now lower in Wakefield than in England and Wales as a whole, the reverse is true when it comes to burglaries and thefts.

More than half of last year’s crime occurred in just seven wards – Airedale and Ferry Fryston; Castleford Central and Glasshoughton; Pontefract North; South Elmsall and South Kirkby; Wakefield East; Wakefield North; and Wakefield West. Wakefield North alone saw more than 3,370 crimes committed in the year to July.

Six of the same wards also had “significant” levels of anti-social behaviour along with Normanton.

The figures suggest that crime associated with nightlife in the centre of Wakefield fell, with the number of violent crimes down nine per cent, which contrasted with Pontefract where the figure rose by five per cent.

The wet weather over the summer helped to reduce the number of incidents linked to the district’s “night-time economy”.

The report reveals that around one in three crimes in Wakefield is theft, with the number of offences growing by almost 10 per cent last year.

It warns that “sprees by prolific offenders” could undo progress made on tackling thefts and burglaries and recommends the day-to-day management of those released from prison should be a priority.

It points to drug use as a major driver of “acqusitive crime”, with more than half of those who tested positive for drugs after arrest in the last six months being linked to theft. The average age of those being treated for drugs is rising, with more than half aged between 25 and 34.

The report also calls for better understanding of the impact on people who are repeatedly the victims of anti-social behaviour.

Wakefield Council’s community safety overview and scrutiny committee will consider the report at a meeting later this month.

West Yorkshire Police declined to comment.