A NEW Forest crime-fighting partnership will increase its focus on domestic abuse amid growing concern for victims during the pandemic.
Crime and disorder figures for the Forest, presented to a recent meeting of the district council’s community and leisure overview and scrutiny panel, showed total crime rose to 11,100 offences between 1st April 2019 and 31st March 2020 – up from 10,753 in 2018/19.
Although violence resulting in injury fell from 1,302 to 1,262, non-injury violence surged by 419 from 2,077 offences in 2018/19 to 2,496 in 2019/20.
The crime report pointed out domestic abuse accounted for a “significant amount” of the violence that took place during both years, consistent with the rest of Hampshire.
“Given the concerns regarding increased domestic abuse during Covid lockdowns, this is manifested in the increased number of sentenced perpetrators,” the report stated. The first lockdown was introduced last year in March.
In 2019/20 there were 77 domestic abuse perpetrators sentenced in the district – up from 59 the previous year.
Priorities for the partnership – made up of public bodies including the police, councils and NHS – are drug and alcohol harm, children at risk, and prevention of exploitation of vulnerable people.
Panel chair Cllr Geoffrey Blunden told the A&T: “The crime data confirms that whilst victims of domestic abuse continue to access support services, it is important that the Safer New Forest partners continue to develop new and innovative ways in which vulnerable victims can recognise and access support to what is often seen as a hidden crime.”
Other significant crime increases included sex offences rising from 353 to 371, thefts from vehicles (up from 867 to 1,025), public order (up from 896 to 1,013), and drug offences (up from 189 to 282).
Decreases include shoplifting offences dropping from 716 to 566, bicycle thefts from 203 to 124, and possession of weapon offences from 113 to 96.
Cllr Blunden was particularly impressed by a fall in anti-social behaviour (ASB) in both the district’s east (1,424 to 1,247) and west (1,296 to 1,153).
“This reflects the good work of the partners who through their targeted approach at engaging children and young people in need of support, working with licensed premises and licensees and educational establishments to deliver a coordinated service,” he said.
“It is encouraging that the positive efforts of these agencies have also been recognised during the annual community engagement events with 98% of residents reporting they enjoy living within the New Forest and are not affected by crime or ASB.”
Praising the Safer New Forest Partnership’s work addressing the cause and effects of crime and disorder, Cllr Blunden was pleased it had remained fully operational throughout the coronavirus crisis.