A POLICE chief inspector says he is working to tackle drunken behaviour in Darlington, which he says is a major factor in town centre incidents.

Chief Inspector Steve Ball was speaking after a Northern Echo report which revealed there had been a “considerable rise” in the number of reported incidents in the town centre.

He blamed part of the increase on “improvements” in crime recording, with some types of incidents which would previously have been classed as "antisocial behaviour" now falling under violent crime. 

This week, The Northern Echo reported that five more mobile CCTV systems were being installed in Darlington in a bid to increase the crime detection rate of 23 per cent across the borough and 31 per cent in the town centre.

A meeting of Darlington Borough Council heard that the town centre had seen incidents rise by 24 per cent over the past year, with reported violent incidents rising to 593, a 31 per cent increase.

Meanwhile sexual offences in the town centre have risen by 187 per cent over the last year, from 15 to 43 and the number of people being found in possession of weapons had risen by 91 per cent to 21.

In response to the report, Chief Inspector Ball said: “The way we record crime has changed considerably over recent years following a national drive for improved compliance around National Crime Recording Standards.

“This has affected overall crime figures, and has had a particularly big impact on offences that fall into the ‘violent crime’ category.

“As a result, many offences that would have previously been classed as antisocial behaviour are now being recorded as harassment, which now falls under violent crime.

“While the figures for Darlington town centre may look alarming, I would like to reassure our residents that the increase in violent crime is in part down to improvements in crime recording.

“Of the incidents in the town centre that have been reported to us, alcohol is a major contributing factor in many of them, while most of them did not result in anyone being injured. A number were also domestic incidents that have happened in people’s homes in the town centre area.

“I appreciate the concerns raised around issues in the town centre and I am taking them extremely seriously.

“Working alongside the council and other agencies, we are making considerable efforts to tackle these issues – in particular drunken behaviour – to ensure that Darlington remains a safe place to live, work and visit.

“I would urge anyone who has concerns around crime in their area to contact us on either 101, or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Always call 999 if you are in immediate danger.”