There has been a double digit increase in recorded crime over the last few months - with Manx police the busiest they’ve been in a decade.
The island’s historically-low crime rate has been the envy of forces across the British Isles but it appears those figures may have ‘bottomed out’ and are already starting to rise. More worrying still, Chief Constable Gary Roberts says there has also been an increase in the level of violence used in some assaults.
In recent weeks, police have investigated an armed jewellery raid in Douglas, an alleged assault in Ballasalla which left a man in hospital in the UK with life threatening injuries and an attack on a woman in Onchan by three teenage girls.
Detectives this week took the unusual step of issuing a photograph of a man they wanted to trace in connection with an assault in Demesne Road, Douglas, which left a 23-year-old woman with serious injuries. He was subsequently located.
It all seems a far cry from the picture presented in the Chief Constable’s annual report, to be laid before the July Tynwald, which shows that recorded crime, already at a 35-year low, fell by a further 4.2 per cent during 2013-14, with substantial reductions across many categories.
A total of 2,110 crimes were recorded for the 12 months from April 1 last year – a 60 per cent decrease since the turn of the century.
The Chief Constable said those figures are audited. He said: ‘We are confident as we can be that the figures are reliable.’
But he added: ‘Evidence from first quarter of this year is that crime rose quite considerably – a double-digit increase.
‘We’ve had the busiest three or four months for the best part of a decade. There’s no rhyme or reason for that.
‘There is often a rise in the first quarter, especially if the weather is good. A wet or cold autumn and winter can usually offset spring and summer increases. However the underlying trend now appears to be upwards.’
Mr Roberts said in the first quarter of the year there had been a rise in all categories of crime.
He said the double digit increase didn’t translate into a huge increase in violent crime but an increase in the level of violence being used in some assaults was a cause for concern.
He said he expected recorded crime will increase during this year by something between 2 and 5 per cent.
The Chief Constable insisted this was not linked to budget cuts or changes in operational policy.
But he said: ‘In the middle of June I’m going to announce some significant changes to the constabulary partly in response to the changing financial situation and partly with the need to modernise the scale and scope of operational policing.’
Mr Roberts said the same model for recording crime had been used since 2001.
Details were checked with control room reports to ensure they tally.
Two years ago Treasury’s internal audit carried out its own checks and were satisfied, he said. We don’t have a target driven culture which can lead to crime figures being massaged, Mr Roberts said.
He said big drops in crime go back more than a decade and a similar picture has been seen across the western world.
In the late 1980s there had been 300 house burglaries a year in the island.
That figure was now down to 60.
He said this sort of crime would always be reported and there were a couple of reasons for such a drop – the first was there is less of a market for secondhand stolen goods and householders are a lot more security conscious.
So why, during a period that crime had been falling, was Isle of Man Prison so busy?
Mr Roberts said the real paradox was that while there was much less low-level criminality, there was much more in the way of serious crime.
He said the Court of General Gaol Delivery was as busy as it’s ever been but the summary courts are much less so.
A third of people who would ordinarily be dealt with through the summary courts are now dealt with by way of a caution, although each offence is still recorded as a crime.