DURHAM’S Police and Crime Commissioner says he will push the case for more funding after a worrying rise in crime across the county.

There were 46,585 crimes in the 12 months to March this year in County Durham, excluding fraud, up 28 per cent year-on-year, which included a 55 per cent rise in violent crime – the highest increase in the country.

Ron Hogg, the Police Crime and Victims’ Commissioner for Durham and Darlington, said much of the 14,000 plus crimes in this category were “low level” and down to a change in recording practices for offences such as harassment.

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The Northern Echo: Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg

Ron Hogg, Police Crime and Victims’ Commissioner for Durham and Darlington

But Mr Hogg conceded that overall “we are seeing a reversal of the gains we have had over the years”.

While crime is up, the number of officers employed by Durham Police is also falling. In June there were 1,161 officers, down 373 from the figure seven years ago.

Mr Hogg said Policing Minister Nick Hurd was due to visit the North-East and he would be making the case with him for a fairer funding formula for County Durham and Darlington.

He said: “We are seeing a rise in traditional crime – half of the increases we are experiencing are around theft and that is really concerning.

“Durham is one of the most accurate forces in the country for recording, but there are other things contributing. One is the ongoing austerity measures, people in some instances are stealing to make ends meet.

“You can also attribute an element to reduced police officer numbers and these and other pressures I will be sharing with the Minister.”

Mr Hogg briefed members of Darlington Council at its full council meeting last week and revealed that anti-social behaviour offences in the town had risen a massive 70 per cent.

He said: “There are two key issues in Darlington, one in relation to youth alcohol and the other relates to off-road motorcycles.”

He also said a nightclub closure in Catterick, North Yorkshire, had led to a displacement of soldiers coming into Darlington, leading to an increase in night-time disorder.

Crime figures for Darlington alone show that recorded sexual offences are up from 61 to 90, when comparing the first quarter of 2017/18 with the same period last year, theft increased from 884 to 1,309, vehicle offences ross from 159 to 275 and criminal damage/arson was up from 387 to 499.

A Durham Police spokesman said: “There is a national drive from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary towards the integrity of police force's crime recording data. As a result, a number of crimes have been reclassified.

“This has had a big impact on offences which fall into the ‘violent crime’ category, which in turn affects overall crime figures.

“While the figures for County Durham and Darlington may look alarming, people should be reassured that the apparent increase in violent crime is down to improvements in crime reporting rather than an increase in offences.”