Crime has soared more than 13 per cent in Lancashire during the past year, according to latest police statistics.
South Ribble, Chorley and Preston are amongst the hardest hit by the new wave of lawlessness – all three showing alarmingly high increases over the 12 months up to September.
The figures prompted both Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner and the county’s Police Federation to warn about the increasing demands now being placed on a shrinking police force.
But they come in stark contrast to the Government’s own statistics which continue to show falling crime rates across the country as a whole.
In total 115,775 crimes were recorded by Lancashire Police over the year – almost 13,700 up on 2015/16.
Some types of offence like robbery, violence, sex offences and stalking and harassment all rose by more than 20 per cent.
And only two categories of crime – drug offences and bicycle theft – actually showed a fall.
The numbers are against a background of wholesale police cuts forced on the county by central government austerity measures.
Lancashire has lost more than 800 police officers and a further 500 police staff since the economies in funding were introduced.
Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said the latest statistics showed “the increasing levels of demand that our officers are dealing with, as the number of recorded crimes continues to rise.
“Our officers continue to do more with less.”
And Rachel Baines, chairman of the county’s police union, added: “This worrying rise in crime will only add to this pressure.”
Across Lancashire, Blackpool showed the highest number of crimes recorded during the year, with 20,341 - 2,856 (16.33 per cent) up on the previous 12 months.
Preston had the second highest crime rate, with just short of 15,000 offences logged by police.
But it was South Ribble where the biggest percentage increase came. The borough’s total of 6,180 was 28.7 per cent (1,378) higher than 2015/16.
Chorley had the second highest rise in offences with 6,590 being 17.74 per cent up. Preston had the fourth highest with 14.38.
Ribble Valley and Burnley also recorded a higher percentage than the county-wide average of 13.42.
Officials from the Office of National Statistics, which published the figures, were quick to point out the numbers were only those crimes recorded by police forces in the UK.
Their own statistics, compiled for the annual Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), have shown a continuing fall since the 1990s, they said.
“Police recorded crime statistics must be interpreted with caution,” said the ONS report. “The police can only record crimes that are brought to their attention and for many types of offence these data cannot provide a reliable measure of levels or trends.”
And they attempted to allay fears of a new crime wave by stressing: “Crime is not a common experience for most people, with eight in 10 adults surveyed by the CSEW not being a victim of any of the crimes asked about in the survey.”
Lancashire Police’s statistics showed that of the 115,775 crimes recorded in 2015/16, almost 35,000 were for violence against the person, a 20 per cent rise year on year.
They come just weeks after the Government froze its grants to police forces in England and Wales and then announced police and crime commissioners could increase the council tax precept by £12 a year per household to compensate.
Only two categories of crime fell in Lancashire in the 12 months to September - bicycle theft and drugs offences.
Convicted cannabis grower Mike Dobson (pictured) says no-one should be surprised that narcotics cases are down.
The founder of the Preston Cannabis Club, who has just spent his second term behind bars for cultivation, feels the way the public now views drug use could be affecting the number of cases being reported to police.
“I don’t really find it surprising drug cases are falling because over the last two or three years there has been quite a significant change in public perception,” he said.
“There is an open public debate going on about legalising different kinds of drugs, and not just cannabis. And maybe that’s affecting the numbers of people making allegations.
“Police are also exercising their discretion, which is good in my view.”
LANCASHIRE’S CRIME FIGURES
Total offences - 115,775 (+13%)
Violence against the person - 34,438 (+20%)
Homicide - 13
Violence with injury - 16,429 (+14%)
Violence without injury - 12,216 (+23%)
Stalking/harassmentharassment - 5,767 (+32%)
Death or injury due to unlawful driving - 13
Sex offences - 3,655 (+23%)
Robbery - 907 (+34%)
Theft - 50,237 (+11%)
Burglary - 13,026 (+8%)
Vehicle offences - 10,434 (+10%)
Theft from person - 1,469 (+25%)
Bicycle theft - 1,754 (-2%)
Shoplifting - 9,185 (+16%)
Criminal damage or arson - 18,628 (+6%)
Drug offences - 1,957 (-15%)
Possession of offensive weapons - 470 (+24%)
Public order offences - 3,886 (+43%)
CRIMES BY DISTRICT
South Ribble - 6,180 (1,378 or 28.7% up)
Chorley - 6,590 (993 or 17.74% up)
Blackpool - 20,341 (2,856 or 16.33 up)
Preston - 14,936 (1,878 or 14.38% up)
Ribble Valley - 2,266 (283 or 14.27% up)
Burnley - 9,786 (1,191 or 13.86 up)
Rossendale - 4,304 (477 or 12.46 up)
Fylde - 3,816 (412 or 12.1% up)
Pendle - 6,175 (590 or 10.56% up)
Blackburn with Darwen - 12,787 (1,204 or 10.39 up)
Lancaster - 10,414 (962 or 10.18 up)
Wyre - 5,947 (519 or 9.56 up)
West Lancashire - 5,431 (472 or 9.52% up)
Hyndburn - 6,802 (481 or 7.61% up)