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Police 'very concerned' over 4.9 per cent surge in violent crimes

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 03, 2012

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Fresh concerns have been raised about a continuing upturn in serious violent crime in Devon and Cornwall.

Since the beginning of the financial year, incidents of so-called "violence with injury" have leapt by 4.9 per cent to 5,231 across the two counties.

Attacks have been particularly high in Devon which has seen 2,520 offences (up 8.3 per cent) compared to the same period in 2011.

While the trend has been less pronounced in Cornwall (up 1.9 per cent to 1,488 crimes) and Plymouth (up 1.7 per cent to 1,223) major concerns have been raised about the force's inability to combat the long-standing problem.

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The figures, which typically include drunken street fighting and domestic violence, were presented to last week's meeting of the Devon and Cornwall Police Authority.

They put Devon and Cornwall 33rd out of the 43 forces in England and Wales.

Independent member Jan Stanhope said she was "very concerned that the improvement is not what we hoped for." She said: "We are almost at the bottom of the pile. We have a history of trying to control this but it has been going up."

Deputy Chief Constable David Zinzan admitted during the meeting that the figures were "not where we want them to be".

But he said that the reversing the trend was a priority with a strategic "gold" group, chaired by him, being held every two weeks.

He stressed that the force's response had not been "at the expense of other crime types".

"There had been a significant peak in that [violence with injury] and a great deal of time has been spent trying to understand what caused that," he said.

"Some are linked to the night-time economy and there are clearly times and locations where we can anticipate problems and we have put resources into that.

"We are engaging with local authorities and working with partners to be fairly robust about licensing conditions and perhaps even closing the premises down.

"We are looking at repeat individuals that are prone to commit violent offences and targeting those quite robustly."

He added: "It also includes domestic abuse as well as looking at repeat offenders and repeat victims to make sure there are long-term intervention plans for those."

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer also spoke during the discussion saying many of the issues and solutions were not solely in the "gift of the police".

"This is to do with licensing of premises and how the courts release people back into the community," Mr Sawyer said. "If we are not careful with some of the most violent offenders you get revolving door justice."

He added: "I would not want the public to be led astray that this is totally within the gift of the police service."

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