Violent crime has risen in Bedford over the last year, despite an overall drop in recorded offences.
Bedfordshire Police recorded 4,782 incidents of violent crime in Bedford in the 12 months to September, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
That was an increase of 4 per cent compared to the previous year.
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At 27.6 crimes per 1,000 people, that was slightly lower than the rate across England and Wales, which stood at 30.1.
One of the main factors behind the increase in Bedford was the rise in violence without injury, which rose by 8 per cent, from 2,030 incidents to 2,197.
There were also 1,324 cases of stalking or harassment, up by 8 per cent on the previous year.
Detective Chief Inspector Louisa Glynn, at Bedfordshire Police, said: “We have had significant focus over the past 12 months in tackling violent crime, targeting knife and gun crime as well as gangs and organised criminal activity. This is reflective in the 24 per cent decrease in the number of possession of weapons offences involving knives and firearms.
“The increase has been seen in cases of violence without injury, as well as in stalking and harassment, and we are continuing to do all we can to keep our communities safe.
"We also support the work of the Violence and Exploitation Reduction, which has a remit to tackle the root causes of violence as a public health issue and has received more than 130 referrals since it was launched last year.
“It is also encouraging to see that there was a three per cent decrease in crime in Bedfordshire, and that there has been a decrease of sexual offences and theft offences.
“We will do all we can to continue making our county safer, pursuing offenders, protecting victims and working with our partners and communities to keep improving the service we provide.”
Helen Ross, from the ONS Centre for Crime and Justice, said: “The coronavirus pandemic and related lockdown restrictions have resulted in fluctuations in the level of crime experienced in England and Wales.
“Data from the survey showed decreases in crime at the start of the pandemic, with rises seen over the summer months, specifically in theft, following the easing of lockdown measures, with overall crime now back at pre-lockdown levels of January to March 2020.
“There were also fluctuations in police recorded crime, but total recorded offences for July to September 2020 were below that seen in the same period in 2019.”
The total number of offences in Bedford fell by 3 per cent, with police recording 14,857 crimes over the course of the year.
This puts the overall crime rate at 85.7 per 1,000 people, compared to a national average of 83.5.
Other crimes recorded in Bedford included:
419 sexual offences, a decrease of 2 per cent
5,648 theft offences, down 12 per cent
1,499 incidents of criminal damage and arson, down slightly
492 drug offences, up 8 per cent
79 possession of weapons such as firearms or knives, down 24 per cent
1,418 public order offences, up 9 per cent
Children’s charity Barnardo’s warned that offences could “erupt” once the latest lockdown is eased.
Chief executive Javed Khan said: “Children and young people have spent months out of school and away from their support networks, leaving many vulnerable to exploitation and control by criminal gangs who have seized on the disruption.
“With rising unemployment and poor job prospects, some young people are finding it hard to believe in a positive future, and see no alternative but to turn to a dangerous way of making money, carrying knives to protect themselves.”