Devon and Cornwall suffered a surge in violence and public order offences, according to latest figures released by the force today.
Attacks in which no one was hurt leapt by 13.1 per cent in the 12 months to December last year, while public order offences were up by 18.4 per cent.
Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Hogg, who has written to the major supermarkets for “round table” talks on the impact of sales of cheap alcohol on crime, said: “I am seriously concerned about these levels of violent crime which are among the worst in the country.
“I am working closely with the police to understand why Devon and Cornwall has such high violent crime figures, and the role that alcohol plays in this.”
The worrying rise came during a positive performance period for Devon and Cornwall Police which saw overall crime fall by 2.6 per cent, or 2,235 crimes. However, the force, which has lost some 400 officers in recent years due to £51 million budget cuts imposed by the Government, is still expected to miss its modest two per cent crime reduction target at the end of the financial year.
Deputy Chief Constable Bill Skelly welcomed the fall in crime but admitted the figures also showed areas needing further understanding and action.
He said: “Crime figures are just one way in which we monitor our performance in order to make our communities safer.
“These figures show Devon and Cornwall remains a safe place to live, work and visit. We want this to remain the case and victims to be at heart of everything we do.
“However, reducing crime and making our communities safer is not just about having low crime figures.
“We know there are areas where we can work with partners and improve people’s quality of life which might not be reflected in crime statistics.
“A small rise in crime in some areas does not make Devon and Cornwall less safe, but nonetheless, we have to constantly observe crime trends to reduce offences and work with our partners to deal with the root cause of them as soon as possible.”
The force did score significant success against dwelling burglary, which was down 8.6 per cent, non-dwelling burglary, down 11.7 per cent, and vehicle offences which fell by 14.3 per cent. Incidents of criminal damage fell by 9.8 per cent.
The rise in reported sexual offences, up by more than 10 per cent, is seen as positive with more victims being confident to come forward to police.
Shoplifting rose by more than seven per cent, amid fears that people are stealing essentials, such as food, because of the lasting impact of the economic downturn and more recent welfare reform.
The force has previously claimed that increases in drugs offences represented successful operations against dealers and addicts.
However, offences fell from 4,645 to 4,419, or 4.9 per cent, during 2013 compared to the previous 12 months.
Crime figures for all forces, which allow their performance to be compared, will be released by the Office of National Statistics later today, but only run up to September 2013.
The force again raised the issue of the impact of policing the region during the summer when millions of tourists flock to the two counties, swelling the resident population fivefold.
“There is no doubt that summer policing is a challenge for the force with no extra resource,” Mr Skelly said.
“But there are other things we need to focus on with partners in terms of health, well being and looking at reducing the causes of crime.
“Alcohol is undoubtedly a factor in a large proportion of crime and looking at how and why people drink and then become involved in with the police, NHS and other agencies is critical.
“We estimate alcohol to be involved in at least 35 per cent of violent crime, so the consumption, licensing and selling of alcohol is having a huge impact on the communities of Devon and Cornwall.
“There is already extensive work going on with partners and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner to look at how this can be most effectively managed.
“There is no doubt that violent and sexual offences are aggravated and at times caused by alcohol, and that it also impacts heavily on areas such as domestic abuse”