VIOLENT crime in Winchester has seen a sharp rise over the last year, according to the latest figures.

Violence against the person, involving stalking, harassment and social media offences, has climbed by 18.1 per cent although offences involving physical injury are only up 1.8 per cent.

The figures were reported to city councillors at the scrutiny committee last Thursday.

Acting district police commander Insp Jon Turton said theft offences account for 41 per cent of crime, up 23 per cent, with a small number of offenders stealing for drugs.

Recent prosecutions and court orders are being used to restrict offending.

Good news is that anti-social behaviour is down 11 per cent.

A major police operation against suspected burglars involving 120 officers led to six arrests near Micheldever in December and enquiries are ongoing.

Insp Turton told councillors: “We have not got the resources to everything we want to do. We are focussing on the high-harm stuff.

“Anti-social behaviour is 11 per cent down with great partnership work as well as civil orders.”

He said dealing with begging was frustrating. “It is not something we can arrest our way out of. It is preventable by education. The beggars are not homeless. It is an affluent city. They are earning a lot of money by begging; why wouldn’t they?”

But work needed to be done on tackling the root cause of why people are begging, namely to feed their addictions.

Insp Turton is keen to promote the Spare Change for Lasting Change which encourages people to give to charity instead of direct into a beggar’s hands. The proceeds go to the Trinity Centre and the Nightshelter on Jewry Street. Formerly called the Diverted Giving scheme the proceeds have doubled since a relaunch and rebranding, said Insp Turton.

The police report said: “£200 can provide six counselling sessions and as little as £5 can provide a hot home-cooked evening meal.”

There is other good news. Hampshire is planning to recruit 600 new officers by March 2021, although that will not replace the 1,000 officers the force has lost since the financial crash ten years ago.

Councillors raised various issues including fly-tipping the range of the police’s new electric vehicles and the switching off of street lights.

Insp Turton said there was no correlation between the dark streets and offences. More significant were people leaving their vehicles unlocked. But where some offences had occurred on dark streets the lights have been switched back on.

Conservative group leader Caroline Horrill said the operation in Micheldever has “reinstated faith (in the police) in the community I represent.”