Crime rises 20pc in St Albans despite five-year downward trend

St Albans Chief Inspector Shane O'Neill. Picture: SOPHIE CROCKETT/ARCHANT

St Albans Chief Inspector Shane O'Neill. Picture: SOPHIE CROCKETT/ARCHANT - Credit: Sophie Crockett/Archant

An increase in violence and domestic abuse helped cause a 20pc rise in crime in St Albans, statistics show.

However the rise comes amid a downward trend in the city over the past five years, with police saying crime has come down by approximately 25pc since 2012.

The latest published statistics show a 20pc rise in crime in St Albans from April 2016 to January 2017 compared to the previous year, from 5,148 incidents to 6,166.

The biggest rises were in violence against a person - which jumped by 29pc compared to the previous year - and domestic abuse, which went up by 30pc.

Ch Insp Shane O’Neill, commander for the St Albans area, said part of the reason for the rise is that people feel more comfortable about reporting crimes, particularly domestic abuse.

Officers are also better at recording even the smallest amounts of crime than they were in the past, he added.

However he said: “Our job is to understand that violence.”

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He added that “we know there are particular establishments which do attract a lot of offenders” and that officers are working closely with pubs and clubs to reduce disturbances.

Some have even installed ID machines, so they are more aware of who is entering their premises and can monitor their behaviour more closely.

But Ch Insp O’Neill said where that didn’t work, police would pursue criminal behaviour orders (CBOs) which may ban known troublemakers from crime hotspots.

Ch Insp O’Neill added that the fact that “the public are much more vigilant and ready to call the police” has led to a huge spike in 999 calls and calls to 101, the police’s non-emergency number.

He said the force now gets around 500 emergency calls per day and between 1,400 and 1,500 non-emergency ones - a rise of about 8pc year-on-year.

“That’s pretty exceptional,” Ch Insp O’Neill said. “That was a typical New Year’s Eve. Now it’s the norm.

“From a police perspective, we’re the last resort and it’s difficult for us to say no.”

He said the force needs to “look at reducing that demand where appropriate”, for example by working closely with other organisations which as the fire or health services.

But although he said officers would always look to bring forward convictions for offences where possible, he pledged: “Our main focus is safeguarding victims.

“We’ve put in place a safeguarding unit because it takes a lot for people to come forward and report that crime – particularly in domestic abuse cases, where they are sometimes in a controlled situation in great fear.

“Our main priority is protecting people – that comes number one.”