WILTSHIRE continues to be one of the safest places to live in the country, according to new crime figures released by the Office of National Statistics.

They show the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions played an important part in significantly reducing the number of some crimes, such as shoplifting, theft, burglary, robbery and vehicle offences.

Wiltshire Police recorded a 16.5 per cent reduction in the volume of crime for the 12 months to December 2020 in comparison with a national decrease of 7.8 per cent.

Comparing Wiltshire Police’s statistics against the previous year, the figures show public order offences increased by 18 per cent from the previous year, (2,871 to 3,397) in the 12 months to December 2020.

Incidents of stalking and harassment showed a 10 per cent increase (2,896 to 3,200), while domestic abuse saw a 10 per cent rise and recorded instances of hate crime saw a 26 per cent increase (836 compared to 665).

A number of crimes showed a significant decrease, including: shoplifting (-47 per cent), all other theft offences (-35 per cent), burglary (-34 per cent), theft from the person (-47 per cent), robbery (-19 per cent) and vehicle offences (-16 per cent).

Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said that last year Wiltshire Police recorded the lowest volume of crime per head of population in the country and compared with similarly sized forces – which suggests that Wiltshire continues to be one of the safest places in the country.

The volume of recorded crime for Wiltshire was 51.1 crimes per 1,000 residents - significantly below the average for forces which have similar size and population which showed an average of 66.5 crimes per 1000 residents.

Mr Pritchard said: “Clearly the latest crime statistics should be seen within the context of the Coronavirus pandemic which has had a huge impact on every aspect of policing throughout Wiltshire and Swindon over this time period.

"It’s a tribute to the officers, staff and volunteers working for Wiltshire Police who have adapted to this unprecedented challenge to continue to carry out their duties to such a high standard.

“While there is always room for improvement, there is much to be positive about - especially our performance in reducing the volume of crime, in comparison with the national average and against other similarly sized forces.

“As always, statistics don’t always tell the full story. It is important to highlight that our activities against organised criminal groups and county lines gangs remain a priority and are reflected in the figures which show increased reports of drug possession.

"Our drive to robustly identify and log instances of stalking and harassment as well as awareness campaigns around domestic abuse may have been an important factor in our higher number of reported cases.

“The drop in a wide range of other crime areas, from robbery to burglary, while no doubt influenced by lockdown restrictions are also a reflection of dedicated, professional and skilled police work.

“The people we serve in Swindon and Wiltshire can be assured that we continue to relentlessly tackle criminality in our area and address the priorities set out by the Police and Crime Commissioner to ensure that our communities are safe places in which to live and work.”

Mr Pritchard said that, for context, it is important to note that due to changes in recording around stalking and harassment, the Force is much better at identifying and logging these crimes.

"Additionally, the Force has promoted greater awareness of these crimes as well as encouraging greater reporting of domestic abuse and hate crime which has resulted in the public being better informed about reporting such matters.

"Possession of drugs showed an increase of 14 per cent (1,229 compared to 1,078) on last year’s recorded crimes and, to some extent, this reflects the successes of operational activity to counter County Lines drug offences being carried out across the Force area during this period.

"It is worth noting that drug trafficking showed a 12 per cent decrease."