THE amount of recorded crime in Wiltshire has dropped over the last year - but robbery and stalking are on the rise.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the county's police recorded 42,483 crimes in 2018 - three per cent less than the year before.

Despite the overall drop, the number of robberies recorded rose by 31 per cent to 338, including two spikes in Swindon in February and June, while cases of stalking and harassment rose by a 2,338.

Police Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson said: "The increase in any crime, especially robbery, stalking and harassment, is concerning to me, however I am pleased to see the force is robustly responding to the concerns that I, and the wider community, have about these crimes.

“As a county, the average number of robberies is low compared to other areas of the country and even small increases push the percentages up. I remain committed to ensuring that victims will be heard and have the confidence to report crime to Wiltshire Police and receive support from their very first call - and throughout the criminal justice process - when they do.

“My pledge is to continue to fund a number of victim support services across the county to ensure that this continues to be the case.”

Burglary and vehicle crime across the county decreased by 25 and 26 per cent respectively to 3,222 and 2,895, thefts went down by 10 per cent to 16,069 and offences related to criminal damage and arson lowered by eight per cent to 5,709.

Drug offences dipped slightly by one per cent to 1,044 but public order offences shot up 10 per cent to 2,710 and the force recorded 305 possession of weapons offences - a 14 per cent increase.

Assistant Chief Constable Craig Holden said: “The reduction in the overall crime figures is really positive news; however we are not complacent and remain focused when it comes to tackling all crimes and offenders.

“It is concerning to see a rise in robbery as I know this is an offence that can increase the fear of crime to communities. As a small force with a large rural footprint, robbery offences are generally low.

"This means that when there is a small increase in numbers of recorded crimes, the percentage increase can be high, as seen in the statistics. We have robust methods of scrutiny and compliance to ensure we have accurate recording of crime, including robbery and we believe that this high level of recording accuracy has contributed to the figures for Wiltshire. The introduction of the Community Tasking Teams has been a positive step in targeting priority offenders. They have had a significant impact in reducing burglaries and the same teams are applying a similar focus to robberies, which I believe will support a reduction over the next few months."

Angus Macpherson added: “Overall, Wiltshire is a safe county and I am pleased to see these latest figures really highlight the hard work that is being done by the force to continually maintain this aspiration for our communities. We are a small, rural force that is striving to punch above its weight in delivering first-class policing and these figures show that we are continuing to deliver.

“Our improved recording practices, which Wiltshire Police has been focusing on 18 months ahead of most other forces, has helped with the accuracy of these figures.

"It is heartening to see that burglary and vehicle crime have dropped considerably and this is a result of me challenging the Chief Constable and his team on the improvement on burglary and vehicle crime numbers. This type of scrutiny is essential to ensure Wiltshire Police continues to deliver for the communities it serves.”