POLICE leaders say the area is still a safe place to live after a rise in the number of homicides in South Worcestershire, with the overall crime rate below the national average

So far in 2019 there have been five murder and manslaughter cases in the South Worcestershire police area – which includes Worcester, Malvern, Droitwich, Evesham and Pershore – compared to four in all of 2018.

While figures for the 12 months up to June 2019, from the Office of National Statistics, show that there were 12 homicide (murder and manslaughter) cases, compared to six in the previous 12 months.

Among the recent murder cases in the area were the deaths of 80-year-old Desmond Wooding of Droitwich, who was found dead at his home on June 24, and Amy Griffiths, discovered dead at her flat in Droitwich on January 14.

A murder investigation was also launched following the discovery of the body of Brenda Venables, missing since 1982, at a property in Kempsey in July.

Overall, there were 7,499 incidents of violent crime recorded in South Worcestershire in that June to May period, an increase of 14 per cent on the previous 12 months.

West Mercia's Police and Crime Commissioner, John Campion, pointed out that the crime rate here remains low compared with other parts of the country.

South Worcestershire registered 24.4 crimes per 1,000 people, below the rate across England and Wales of 28.7.

One of the main factors behind the increase was the rise in stalking and harassment, which rose by 27 per cent, from 1,538 incidents to 1,951.

However, the ONS said improvements to reporting and recording practices by police could be behind the increase.

Offences of violence with injury increased by 13 per cent and violence without injury by nine per cent, reaching 2,556 and 2,980 respectively.

Detective Chief Inspector for South Worcestershire, Ian Wall, said: "Although there is a slight increase in some offences in South Worcestershire, these are still below the national average. "However, there is always work to be done to tackle these serious offences and reduce crime in the community, keeping South Worcestershire a safe place to live and work.

“Working with partners in the community we have dedicated resources in place leading to a significant decrease in some areas, such as business crime.

“We have also worked hard to increase the confidence of victims, especially the vulnerable, to come forward and reports matters to us."

Regarding the homicide cases, he said: "Each one of these tragic offences is one too many and we will continue to work tirelessly in partnership to do what we can to prevent these crimes from being committed."

Mr Campion added: “South Worcestershire remains a safe place to live, work and visit with small numbers of crimes compared to other parts of the country.

"The force’s commendable work in crime recording and the confidence that communities have in reporting, is reflected in the localised figures.

"Following proactive work, there continues to be notable successes, around acquisitive crime and drug offences, however there are clear areas we can build upon.

"I am increasing police numbers and improving resources, and will continue to hold the force to account to ensure new and emerging trends can be tackled.”

The total number of offences in South Worcestershire increased by five per cent, with police recording 21,431 crimes over the course of the 12-month period.

This puts the overall crime rate at 69.7 per 1,000 people, compared to a national average of 89.3.

Other crimes recorded in South Worcestershire included: 810 sexual offences, a rise of six per cent; 6,076 theft offences, a decrease of 25 per cent; 2,647 incidents of criminal damage and arson, up one per cent; 496 drug offences, down one per cent; 222 possession of weapons such as firearms or knives, up 61 per cent; and 1,195 public order offences, up slightly.