Wiltshire had the lowest crime rate in the country last year as the amount of reported offences dropped by 16.5 per cent.

But despite the decrease in overall crime across the county, Office for National Statistics data reveals a sharp increase in hate crime, domestic abuse, stalking and public order offences.

Disability-related abuse rose by 53 per cent, sexual orientation hate crime went up by 67 per cent, and there were 26 per cent more racist offences.

The total amount of recorded hate crimes throughout 2020 was 26 per cent higher than the year before, up from 665to 836.

Domestic abuse-related crimes rose by 10 per cent, with a spike during the summer after the first lockdown ended. Public order offences increased by 18 percent from 2,871 to 3,397. Possession of drugs arrests rose by 14 percent from 1,078 to 1,229 compared to 2019’s recorded crimes.

A Wiltshire Police spokesman said his reflects the successes of operational activity to counter County Lines drug offences being carried out. It is worth noting that

When the force changed the way it recorded stalking and harassment offences and encouraged the public to report them, the amount of those crimes recorded jumped by 15 per cent from from 2,896 to 3,200.

On the other hand, many crimes saw a big decrease as lockdown restrictions kept shops shut and people spent more time at home.

Shoplifting dropped by 48 per cent, theft from a person happened 47 per cent less often and other theft offences decreased by 35 per cent.

Domestic burglaries fell by 34 per cent, the amount of recorded robberies was 19 per cent lower than 2019, vehicle-related offences went down16 per cent, and drug trafficking dropped by 12 per cent.

Overall, the volume of crime for Wiltshire was 51.1 crimes per 1,000 residents, which is far below the average for police forces which have a similar size and population, which showed an average of 66.5 crimes per 1000 residents.

Wiltshire Police recorded a 16.5 per cent reduction in the volume of crime for the 12 months to December 2020 compared to a national decrease of 7.8 percent.

Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said: “Clearly the latest crime statistics should be seen within the context of the coronavirus pandemic which has had a huge impact on every aspect of policing throughout Wiltshire and Swindon over this time period.

“It’s a tribute to the officers, staff and volunteers working for Wiltshire Police who have adapted to this unprecedented challenge [of the pandemic] to continue to carry out their duties to such a high standard.

“While there is always room for improvement, there is much to be positive about - especially our performance in reducing the volume of crime, in comparison with the national average and against other similarly sized forces.

“As always, statistics don’t always tell the full story. It is important to highlight that our activities against organised criminal groups and county lines gangs remain a priority and are reflected in the figures which show increased reports of drug possession.

“And our drive to robustly identify and log instances of stalking and harassment as well as awareness campaigns around domestic abuse may have been an important factor in our higher number of reported cases.

“The drop in a wide range of other crime areas, from robbery to burglary, while no doubt influenced by lockdown restrictions are also a reflection of dedicated, professional and skilled police work.

“The people we serve in Swindon and Wiltshire can be assured that we continue to relentlessly tackle criminality in our area and address the priorities set out by the Police and Crime Commissioner to ensure that our communities are safe places in which to live and work.”

Chief executive of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Kieran Kilgallen, said: “While the overall reduction in crime is welcome, the increases in recorded hate crime and domestic abuse remain a concern.

“We are seeing a slight reduction in outcomes for domestic abuse offences and the OPCC continues to work with the force to improve these. Part of this work includes the introduction of a domestic abuse arrest scrutiny panel to identify areas of improvement and ensure that offenders are dealt with appropriately.

“We know that victims of domestic abuse have been trapped at homes with their abusers over the past year, so an increase was sadly inevitable, but I suspect that this is only part of the picture in Wiltshire.

“There will be many more victims suffering in silence who have been unable to report their abuse for a number of reasons and at the heart of the work our office delivers is commissioning specialist support for the victims affected by crimes, and that includes victims who report to the police, and those who don’t.”

More information about the support for victims of crime can be found at www.wiltshire-pcc.gov.uk