VIOLENT crime and sexual offences recorded in Gwent increased in the year to March 2014, new figures show.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released its most recent data yesterday, showing recorded crime is up in Gwent although England and Wales more generally have seen a decline.

Sexual offences showed an increase of 20 per cent locally, records of violent crime (without injury) were up by 36 per cent and robbery was up by three per cent.

From March 2013 until March 2014, 35,397 crimes were recorded across Gwent, an increase of four per cent compared to 34,153 in the previous year.

Across England and Wales as a whole the numbers of crimes fell by 14 per cent, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, although recorded sexual offences showed a nationwide increase of 20 per cent.

Chief Constable of Gwent Police Jeff Farrar said: “The figures released today are a mixed bag with certain categories such as violence, theft and criminal damage showing increases which of course is of concern. Other categories including burglary and shoplifting are among those showing decreases, bucking national trends.”

Despite a general increase in recorded crime in Gwent, the local force saw successes in the statistics with the reduction in recorded burglaries twice the national average at seven per cent, and fewer crimes involving vehicles.

The figures also showed a reduction in possession of weapons and drug related offences.

Police and Crime Commissioner Ian Johnston said the increase in recorded crime could simply show the public had more faith in the police, and so were more likely to come forward.

He added that almost half of rapes recorded during the period were ‘historical’, reported years after the alleged events.

A spokesman for the ONS said the increase in recorded sexual offences was related to the Operation Yewtree investigation, connected to the Jimmy Savile inquiry, which has seen more victims coming forward.

Mr Johnston said: “Public confidence in Gwent Police has improved and although the report published today shows that overall crime recorded has increased, I believe this has more to do with the public having more confidence in reporting crimes and in the way crime is now being recorded.

“We note there has been an increase in sexual offences and violent crime (without injury) and the force has already taken the initiative and has been running a programme of work to look into why this has been the case.”

He added: “As I have said on numerous occasions, I am more concerned about the quality of service the public receive than numerical targets and we have seen a complete move away from the emphasis on targets here in Gwent.

“A significant amount of work has also been undertaken in other forces in respect of ethical crime recording and it’s interesting to note that Gwent is one of 18 forces now showing an increase for this period.”

Looking at causes of crime, Mr Farrar said that alcohol was often a factor in violent offences and added: “When considering the statistics it must be remembered that within Gwent a large number of the crimes are committed by a small and persistent group of offenders going in and out of the Criminal Justice System.”

He added: “I would urge residents to continue to support our efforts by reporting crimes and passing on information about those involved in crimes.

“The more we can work together, the more likely we are to reduce crime.”