Norfolk violent crime rises

A disturbing rise in muggings and violent robberies has been reported across Norfolk as the Home Office launches a fresh initiative to clamp-down on street crime.

A disturbing rise in muggings and violent robberies has been reported across Norfolk as the Home Office launches a fresh initiative to clamp-down on street crime.

Officers warned that no particular group is more likely to be targeted with victims ranging in age from their mid-teens to late sixties. The comments from Norfolk police came on the same day as Home Secretary John Reid unveiled a raft of new legislation designed to “put the interests of ordinary people first”.

While the county remains one of the safest places to live in the UK - with overall crime down for the fourth year running - there was a sharp increase in robberies over the last 12 months. This is largely due to thieves targeting valuable items such as mobile telephones and MP3 music players.

Robberies rose by a quarter - or 70 more incidents - compared to the previous year. There was also an increase in theft from cars almost entirely due to a developing trend of stealing hi-tech gadgets such as satellite navigation systems stored in vehicles.

Chf Insp Stuart Offord, head of the force's inspection and review department, moved to reassure the public saying a series of arrests had been made in recent weeks which police believe will take a number of persistent offenders off the streets.

Mr Offord said: “The number of robberies in the county is still relatively small compared to other parts of the country but the rise is a cause for concern especially as we realise these crimes have a serious impact on the victims.

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“The incidents have been across the board both in terms of their geographic locations and age range of victims. One reason would seem to be the growing habit of carrying mobile phones and music players.

“Nowadays people can be walking the streets carrying items worth hundreds of pounds - something they wouldn't have dreamt of a few years ago.

“The same is true of satellite navigation systems. Often people attempt to hide them but leave the tell-tale signs of cradles or marks on the window where they have been attached. Even if the item has been removed thieves may still believe it is in the vehicle and break-in in an attempt to find it.”

The new measures launched by the Home Office include making it offence to get someone to carry or hide a weapon on your behalf, carrying up to 10 years' imprisonment for firearms and four years' for knives. Selling or buying a “primer” - a key component of ammunition - also became a crime, unless certain criteria are met.

Anyone caught offering to ``unblock' - or re-programme - a mobile phone faces up to five years in jail and/or an unlimited fine. It has been an offence to re-programme a phone since 2002 but police had difficulty enforcing the law because they had to catch someone in the act. Mr Offord said: “The ability to block mobile phones is a big deterrent to thieves.”

Mr Reid said: “The government's priority is to give police and communities the tools they need to tackle violent crime. These new powers are the latest step, an example of how the government is working to make us all safer, putting the interests of ordinary people first.”

Between April last year and March this year, overall crime in Norfolk fell by 3pc - or 2,000 fewer offences - compared to the previous 12 months.

Burglaries were down by 5pc or 213 offences and violence against the person fell by 7pc of 813 offences. The fall in violence is largely attributed to efforts to clampdown on attacks associated with Norwich's nightclubs and pubs.

The number of sexual offences dropped by 50pc or 735 fewer offences. This large decline was down to one individual who was responsible for 602 offences where indecent phone calls were made to a number of female victims.

Theft of a motor vehicle fell by 6pc and incidents of criminal damage were down by 1.6pc. Drug offences rose by 11pc but this was largely attributed to officers targeting dealers.

Mr Offord, said: “We are delighted that for the fourth year running crime has decreased in Norfolk and that those reductions have been achieved in areas where people feel particularly vulnerable, for example, sexual offences, violent crime and burglary.

Our officers and staff have also made great efforts to increase the number of offences where the offender is detected.

“During the next twelve months Norfolk police will continue to introduce Safer Neighbourhoods teams across the county as it carries on work with partners to reduce crime and anti social behaviour and also in detecting offences and improving public confidence.”