More crimes but Suffolk still safe

DESPITE leaps in violent crime and falling detection rates Suffolk is still the third safest county in England, according to latest figures published today.

DESPITE leaps in violent crime and falling detection rates Suffolk is still the third safest county in England, according to latest figures published today.

The data, released by the Home Office, shows Suffolk recorded a total of 80 offences per 1,000 of the population with only Surrey and Wiltshire seeing slightly lower levels.

The figures show the constabulary is in joint first place with the City of London and Staffordshire for crime detection despite a countywide drop of 1.9 per cent in detection rates for the most common crimes.

Suffolk's Chief Constable Alastair McWhirter said he was 'absolutely delighted' with the force's performance.

He said: "I think there are a whole series of factors that go into making Suffolk perform well. This result shows the work and the investment people have put into the force is really paying off.

"This is a big pat on the back for Suffolk police and the people of Suffolk.

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"I cannot emphasise enough how important the contribution made by local taxpayers is to local policing."

The news comes after crime figures for the county, released last month, showed an increase of 19.1pc in crimes of violence and a rise of nearly 14pc in drugs offences. The same figures showed a reduction in vehicle crime and reduction in thefts in the county.

According to the figures 53,443 crimes were recorded in Suffolk in 2003-2004, an increase of 3,128 from last year.

Compared to its neighbours Suffolk recorded the lowest crime figures in the region with Norfolk recording 69,846 offences, Cambridgeshire recording 79,960 and Essex, 144,512.

In England and Wales there were 35,130 more crimes in 2003-2004 bringing the total crime figure up to 5,934,580 - a rise of 1pc. Violent crime in England and Wales increased by 12pc. Home Office officials said the rise was due to record numbers of police able to register crimes. They said England and Wales were in fact experiencing the longest sustained fall in crime in living memory.

Mr McWhirter said new technology helped the Suffolk force keep its position as the third safest county.

He said: "The additional officers that we have recruited coupled with the investment we have made in new technology have helped us to achieve what we have to date."

However, the future performance of the constabulary is less certain. The police chief warned of possible cuts and an expected £6million shortfall in next year's budget.

He said: "Next year I think we are going to have a difficult financial situation. We have been working with the police authority to try to work out strategies where we can make cutbacks.

"If those resources are cut next year then maintaining that will be difficult. We will work hard to try to ensure the least impact as possible."

n According to the force's own indicators Suffolk remains the safest county in England. A police spokeswoman said this is judged against the total amount of crime, reported crime, detection rates, and the number of people feeling safe in the county.

Data from the British Crime survey revealed that 55 per cent of the county's residents rated the county's performance as excellent or good, a figure significantly higher than the national average.

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