SOUTH Cumbria is on course to record a crime rise, a meeting has heard.

Statistics for January-December 2018 show Barrow had a worse rate for violence and sexual offences than the average in England and the north-west.

The town also has higher rates of criminal damage, arson and anti-social behaviour per head of population, compared to other areas.

But it had lower rates of vehicle crime, shoplifting, robberies, public order offences, drug crimes and bike thefts, than elsewhere.

South Lakeland’s crime figures are lower across the board for England and the north west.

Chief inspector Martin Loebell, of Cumbria Police, said the increases were “small” but there had been an “upward trend” in crime reporting.

He said it was due to “significant changes” to crime recording.

Previously, offences such as stalking or harassment were logged as a single assault. Now they had to be recorded as both an assault and harassment which “doubled” the figures, he said.

Domestic violence used to be treated as a single crime whereas now it could be registered as five or seven crimes, depending on the number of assaults.

Chief Insp Loebell gave an update to members of the South Cumbria Community Safety Partnership at a meeting in Kendal on Tuesday.

He said if someone smashed a window and it hurt someone the most serious crime used to be recorded, whereas now both have to be logged.

Chief Insp Loebell said: “If a kid draws on a wall with a pen, previously it was classed as anti-social behaviour but now it is classed as a crime of criminal damage. We wouldn’t necessarily prosecute that because it’s not always right to put a young person through the criminal justice system, but our detection rate goes down as a result.”

He added: “There are a number of factors. We are not naive enough to say that crime is going down. Crime is going up, we won’t hide that. There is an upward trend in figures but a large proportion of it, however, does come down to how crime is recorded. There’s nothing we can do about that, those are the rules.”

Cllr Roger Bingham said the figures distorted the picture and gave the impression crime was on the rise.

Cllr Brendan Sweeney, chairman of the South Cumbria Community Safety Partnership, said a lot of preventative work was being done to combat domestic abuse in Barrow.

This included working with young men who had witnessed violence in the home to break the cycle and stop them becoming offenders.

“This is a significant piece of work,” said Cllr Sweeney.