VIOLENCE offences recorded by Gwent Police rose by more than a quarter in 2013 while overall crimes rose by two per cent, new figures show.

The percentage rise in violent crime was the highest in England and Wales, and Gwent was the only force in Wales to record a rise in crime.

However the new figures from the Office for National Statistics for the year to December 2013 reported falls in drug offences and burglary.

Offences of theft from the person rose by almost a quarter, while robbery and sexual offences also saw increases.

Gwent Police has blamed the spike in violent crime figures in part on changes to how they are recorded – but also said issues around alcohol and drug abuse continue to be a major factor.

There were 34,985 crimes recorded in Gwent last year – two per cent up on 2012 – with 6,843 of those registered as violent offences against the person.

That figure was up 26 per cent on 2012 – the highest such rise in England and Wales.

Offences of violence that did not cause injury shot up by 42 per cent to 3,173, while offences of violence that did cause injury rose by 14 per cent to 3,666.

Sexual offences rose by 14 per cent to 571 offences, while robbery rose by 9 per cent to 173 offences.

Theft offences fell by one per cent to 16,779 and burglary fell by seven per cent to 4,490 offences.

Drug offences dropped by 17 per cent to 2,145, while shoplifting was down two per cent to 3,194 incidents.

The increase in crime comes after the Argus reported in January that crime had neither gone up or down in the year to September 2013.

Gwent Assistant chief constable Lorraine Bottomley said the slight increase in overall crime is “understandable” but reductions around "priority and volume offences" are to be welcomed.

Ms Bottomley said she had spoken to officers on the ground about the increase in recorded violent crimes.

“Whilst a change in recording practices does explain some of the increase, issues around alcohol and drug abuse continue to be a major factor when it comes to violent crime,” she said.

“We will continue to work closely with partner agencies, licensees, persistent offenders and voluntary groups in an attempt to tackle this increase in violent crime.”

She said the continued fall in the number of burglaries showed operations to target and prosecute offenders are working.

“The figures also suggest that more residents are heeding crime prevention advice and securing their properties,” she added.

The 14 per cent increase in sexual offences should be treated as a “positive indicator”, suggesting victims have more confidence in coming forward to report those crimes.

ACC Bottomley added: “Crime statistics are only one indicator when it comes to measuring how we are serving the public.

“Whilst we are determined to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour in Gwent, we are also very committed to improving the service that we provide to residents and victims of crime."

Crime statistics and whether they are being recorded properly has been a massive issue in Gwent and across England and Wales over the last year.

Chief constable Jeff Farrar told told MPs in December that officers misrecorded incidents when official figures showed crime falling in the region.

UPDATE 4.26pm: Labour’s Newport West MP Paul Flynn said the increase in violent crimes was “vast” and needed to be examined.

“This is the sort of crime that people are most alarmed about,” he said, saying he felt it was difficult to believe changes in crime recording could have led to the 42 per cent increase in violent crimes that did not cause injury.

“It’s a thoroughly exceptional increase. It’s a matter for some alarm. There’s something going on other than changing the ways the figures are collected.”