A big recent rise in burglaries in rural areas of North Yorkshire is being blamed on criminal gangs coming over the border from a neighbouring county.
In recent months a stretch of the county from Harrogate to Craven, along Menwith Hill, has seen a particular spike in crime, with much of it is attributed to ‘out of area’ criminals from West Yorkshire.
Crime commissioner Julia Mulligan told a recent police scrutiny meeting that North Yorkshire was still the safest area in the country but that “pressures on crime in other areas with much higher crime rates than North Yorkshire are having a direct effect on North Yorkshire”.
According to North Yorkshire Police’s most recent performance report, the county still has the lowest crime rate per 1,000 residents for the last 12 months, with recorded anti-social behaviour and fatal road accidents both decreasing.
But numbers of ‘victim-based crimes’ are nearly ten per cent higher now than in the previous two years, and levels of house burglaries, criminal damage and ‘violence without injury’, which includes offences such as harassment and malicious communications, are high.
Though crime has dropped in Richmondshire, levels have risen in all other areas of North Yorkshire, with Craven district seeing a 17 per cent rise for 2015/16 compared with the previous year.
There have been very considerable pressures on crime in West Yorkshire, and they have got a range of issues which mean that criminals are coming in our direction.Julia Mulligan
Mrs Mulligan said some of the rises related to changes in crime recording nationwide, mean more incidents were being recorded as crimes than before.
She said: “I was with the victims team on Wednesday and they were talking about sexting between 14-year-olds, when people send pictures of themselves to each other, now being a crime.
“There is a question of whether that should be crimed, should you be criminalising 14-year-olds sharing images between themselves, but these type of things are now going down as crimes when they might not have been going down as crimes before.”
Mrs Mulligan said the vast majority of the recent rise in burglaries was down to ‘out of area’ offences committed by gangs from West Yorkshire.
She said: “Police have some pretty robust operations in place to deal with these. In November some of the action that they have taken have brought down the figures in relation to that, but it is a concern.”
When asked about the recent rise in Craven’s crime rate, she said: “The area that is suffering a lot from this cross-border activity is the southern swathe of the force from Harrogate along the Menwith Hill corridor into Craven, there are a number of criminal groups operating in these areas that are from West Yorkshire.
“The police do not stop at the border, they will call for support from West Yorkshire and if that support is not forthcoming they will just do their job in West Yorkshire. They will pursue those criminals and deal with them in West Yorkshire. The cross-border working we have got is far better than in previous years.
“There have been very considerable pressures on crime in West Yorkshire, and they have got a range of issues which mean that criminals are coming in our direction.
“In North Yorkshire we can do all we can to deal with this, we do need to work with West Yorkshire to try and stem the flow from their end, which is what the collaboration in the Yorkshire and the Humber region allows us to do.
“It is extremely interesting that pressures on crime in other areas, much higher crime areas than North Yorkshire, are having a direct effect on crime in our area.”
In response, Assistant Chief Constable Andy Battle of West Yorkshire Police said: “Criminals do not respect local, regional or in many cases, even international borders.
“That is why it is vital that different police forces work together and with other partners to directly target criminals. We regularly work with other police forces to target those involved in crime.
“We work particularly closely with the other forces in the Yorkshire and Humber Region, helping each other and sharing information and intelligence, to target those who commit crime across the region. As part of our response we have established joint teams including the Regional Organised Crime Unit to help tackle these problems.”
Separately, new figures showed yesterday that the number of rapes and other sex crimes reported to police nationwide are at their highest level since current records began.
Sex offences reported to forces in England and Wales rose by 26,606 in the year to September 2015, an increase of 36 per cent on the previous 12 months, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found.
The 43 forces recorded just under 100,000 sex offences in total, the highest figure since the current method of reporting began in 2003.
As well as sexual offences, police forces recorded a four per cent increase in gun crimes, the first time firearms offences have risen since 2008. Knife crimes also rose by nine per cent.
Overall, crime reported to police last year increased by six per cent over 2014 to 4.3 million offences, with the ONS attributing it to “a greater proportion of reports of crime being recorded in the last year, following improved compliance with national recording standards by police forces”.
In West Yorkshire, overall recorded crime rose by 18.9 per cent, but the county’s force said thus was due to changes in the way offences are recorded and the actual rise was just two per cent.
North Yorkshire saw an overall three per cent rise, as did South Yorkshire. In the latter county, thefts and house burglaries fell, but the number of violent and sexual offences rose.
Humberside Police said it was one of only nine forces out of 43 in England and Wales not to show a rise in overall crime.