Crime figures for the district, from Harrogate to Ripon, Knaresborough and Nidderdale, have risen slightly year on year.
Based on the latest figures for North Yorkshire Police (NYP), the number of crimes recorded in the district to January 2015 is up 165 - that’s around 3.5 per cent.
But this, say police, is down to national trends and changes in policing priorities. And, despite a slight rise in reports, the region still has the second lowest crime rate for the country.
County commander Supt Mike Walker, setting out policing priorities for the region at the start of the year, says the focus has to be on victims and on crimes that cause harm.
Among the issues highlighted are the district’s night-time economy, with drinking and violence in town and city centres, cyber crime and anti-social behaviour.
The rising use of legal highs, the subject of a recent Harrogate Advertiser Series campaign, was pinpointed as an area of concern, as was the issue of doorstep crime - bogus callers and sneak-in burglars targeting the elderly and vulnerable.
COMMISSIONER’S CRIME PLAN
Crime commissioner Julia Mulligan, in the district’s crime plan, highlighted four key areas for concern - anti-social behaviour, alcohol and the night time economy, road safety and drugs.
This is based on a consultation which found that while 94 per cent of people feel safe in the district, six per cent are frightened of walking alone at night.
A third of residents (35 per cent) believe drug use is the single largest contributing factor to crime in the district, while 26 per cent fear their homes being burgled or broken into.
And one of the biggest concerns for residents is road safety (41 per cent of respondents), while 54 per cent said they would like to see greater police visibility on the street.
WHAT the candidates said:
HARROGATE AND KNARESBOROUGH Shan Oakes, Green
“I can speak on crime from extensive professional experience, having worked for some years in the Community Safety Partnership in York, as the Council’s representative on this vital multi agency project. We worked hand in hand with Police, Health and Youth services to address crime in an enlightened and strategic manner. My ambition for this area would be to build on this experience, matching intelligent education and prevention information with diligent enforcement. My aim would be for agencies and community to work in harmony, addressing the causes of crime, the distress of the victims and their need for adequate redress.”
Jan Williams, Labour
“David Cameron promised to protect frontline policing but police numbers on the beat have been cut by nearly 17,000 and the Tories plan to cut thousands more over the next parliament. Visible neighbourhood policing, rooted in local communities -preventing crime not just reacting to it - is at the heart of progressive policing. I‘m glad to say Labour will abolish Police and Crime Commissioner elections – costing millions, with hardly anyone voting – and put the money into frontline policing. I’m also pleased a new, stronger Police Standards Authority will replace the widely-discredited Police Complaints Commission.”
Helen Flynn, Lib Dem
“We are very lucky to live in a relatively crime-free area. As a member of the North Yorks Police and Crime Panel, I regularly review the figures and trends relating to crime in our area. I know that local residents have concerns over anti-social behaviour, especially relating to the night-time economy in Harrogate, and also drug use which is on the increase. Legal highs are also a significant issue and national Government needs to catch up with its legislation on these substances. If elected, this is an issue I would like to pursue at Westminster.”
Andrew Jones, Conservative
“Crime is about offenders and victims. We should punish and rehabilitate offenders while helping victims. Crime has fallen dramatically since 2010 but remains a tragedy for victims. That is why spending on victims services has increased funded by the offender. I backed the Anti-social Behaviour bill giving police powers to disperse troublemakers additional to current powers of arrest. The new ‘community trigger’ means residents can contribute to how anti-social behaviour is tackled. We need more action on low-level crime like littering and dog fouling. I am pressing councils and police to use the powers they have to do this.”
David Simister, UKIP
“I’m a great believer in visible policing, which, sadly, seems to have all but disappeared from our villages, towns and cities over the last few years. The police were set up to prevent crime, not necessarily detect it, and those in charge seem to have forgotten this fact. We need to protect front line policing and instead of patrolling the internet, we need officers out and about on our streets, not sat in vans or behind desk. Out must go unneeded bureaucracy and political correctness, in must come old fashioned policing and regaining the trust of the law abiding citizens.”
SKIPTON AND RIPON
Alan Henderson, UKIP
“I believe that seeing is believing and a visible police force is vital in my opinion. This is further emphasised in the rural areas, where a police presence is now almost unheard of. I am of the opinion that too much time is wasted on form filling and reports and not enough time in the community. The police need better defined powers and an ability to make decisions based on common sense rather than fear of breaking the rules. Finally I would like to see more ex military working in the service, where their skills and knowledge could be put to good use.”
Julian Smith, Conservative
“Recorded crime across the UK is at its lowest level since records began and North Yorkshire has the lowest in the country. That’s thanks to our excellent local police men and women, the leadership of the Chief Constable and our strong Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan. Yes the police are having to do more with less but North Yorkshire is showing that quality can be maintained in tougher economic times and that citizens can be kept safe in the most rural part of or country. I will continue to fight for resources for our area and ensure that the police know they have my support in the excellent work that they do.”
Malcolm Birks, Labour
“The Tory/Lib Dem government have forced North Yorkshire Police into making cuts of £16.1m by 2015. Where possible, it has tried to protect frontline policing but job losses have been inevitable. I met a policeman in Ripon this weekend who said the situation was “getting desperate”. He foresaw even more cuts if the Tories were to get re-elected. We want investment in safer streets, not more cuts in public services. That’s why we need a Labour government. The Labour Party has just announced an £800m plan to protect neighbourhood policing and safeguard the jobs of 10,000 police officers over the next three years and will cut the unnecessary Police & Crime Commissioners.”
Jacqueline Bell, Lib Dem
“Locally, Liberal Democrats have been concerned by the mothballing of police cells in Skipton. This means people may be detained in Harrogate or, if arrested in North Craven, in Lancashire or Cumbria. This involves police driving many miles to ferry people between distant cells and Skipton Court. We are keen to see the continuation of a Court in Skipton. I am interested in support for victims of crime. Having been involved in establishing a Victim Support Scheme I know at first hand how distressing this can be. The support by staff and trained volunteers for victims and witnesses is applauded and I would support secure funding for the scheme covering North Yorkshire.”
Andy Brown, Green Party
“It is horrible to be a victim of crime. I know from personal experience.
It is important that we deal with crime effectively. That means police focusing on crime rather than on monitoring meaningless targets and on top down re-organisations.
It means putting some criminals to work on fixing the results of crime so they see and pay the cost of what they have done rather than learn new criminal skills in jail. It also means getting on top of drug crime. Legalisation takes money away from criminal gangs and helps us control the biggest single cause of crime.”