CRIME statistics released last week indicate a 7.8 per cent increase in recorded offences across the Wellington Shire in 2016, which local police are attributing to assaults, burglaries and theft from motor vehicles.
The statistics, released by the Crime Statistics Agency, detail 4914 recorded offences in the Wellington Shire for the year ending December 31, 2016, compared to 4558 in 2015.
This brings the offence rate in Wellington Shire up to 11,571.3 offender incidents per 100,000 population.
Divisional Commander for Eastern Region Division 6 Acting Superintendent Mark Edwards said the 7.8 per cent overall crime increase was listed as stable, and that assaults, burglaries and volume crime (mainly theft from motor vehicles) were driving the increase.
Drug offences were up 43.5 per cent, with 333 recorded offences overall, with 27 drug dealing and trafficking offences, 31 cultivating and manufacturing offences and 275 drug use and possession offences.
While this means drug dealing and trafficking offences have decreased 48.1 per cent from 2015, the statistics mark a 121.4 per cent increase for cultivation and manufacturing offences.
The acting superintendent confirmed the drug offence increase was the result of vigilant policing and better reporting to police, and said the dramatic decrease in drug dealing and trafficking was due to a number of high level dealers being locked up in the previous four to six months.
"We have had a real push to increase the pressure on all things drugs in the police service area," Act. Supt. Edwards said.
"Drugs are now harder to get in Wellington, and many of the local users and smaller dealers are going elsewhere to source their drugs.
"Uniform members and the detectives are working together to address drug crime and this focus will continue."
Crimes against the person were up 9.3 per cent, with 1167 recorded offences.
Of these, most notably were an increase in sexual offences, up 33.3 per cent with 280 offences, compared to 210 in 2015, and a 59.4 per cent increase in dangerous and negligent acts endangering people, with 51 recorded offences compared to 32 in 2015.
Act. Supt. Edwards attributed Wellington's 33.3 per cent increase in sexual offences to those still coming forward to report historical sexual offences in Sale dating back to the 1970s, and that the investigation is still being conducted by the Sexual Crimes Squad.
The dangerous and negligent acts endangering people offences related to serious collisions and driving offences, Act. Supt. Edwards said.
"What the community often don't understand is that police are no longer satisfied with drivers facing minor traffic charges for serious collisions they cause and seriously dangerous driving.
"We now have a number of options within the Crimes Act that we utilise and often charge people with [dangerous and negligent acts] for driving behaviour.
"Drivers who are reckless and negligent on our roads and kill or seriously injure other people can be safe in the knowledge that they face serious jail time."
The assault rate remained steady, with 634 recorded offences in 2016, compared to 622 in 2015, and stalking, harassment and threatening behaviour offences decreased from 194 offences in 2015 to 190 offences in 2016.
Two homicides and related offences were recorded in 2016, the same as 2015, attributed to culpable driving or dangerous driving causing death.
Theft increased from 807 offences in 2015 to 895 offences in 2016, and burglary break and enter increased from 494 offences in 2015 to 502 offences in 2016.
Act. Supt. Edwards said volume crime was continually presented to police, and that the community needed to learn to take more care around what is left in vehicles and locking and securing vehicles.
"Theft from motor vehicles continues to drive us mad as police," he said.
"The community think that they won't be a victim and these offences won't happen to them.
"A lot of our community are very trusting people old school farmers and the like.
"Many of them don't lock their houses or vehicles they never have.
"We are finding that this good nature is being exploited by low life crooks.
"People must learn to protect their property lock up your stuff or lose it.
Act. Supt. Edwards said burglaries posed a large problem for Wellington police throughout the year, particularly in holiday homes and isolated properties.
"We have processed quite a few offenders for many burglaries over the past six months and we urge people to look out for each other," he said.
"If you see something suspicious at your neighbour's house call 000 and report it.
"Don't wait till you see your neighbour next time only to find out he or she had been broken into."
There was a 10.4 per cent decrease in property damage across the Wellington Shire, with 446 recorded offences in 2016.
Weapons and explosives offences saw a 36.2 per cent increase, with 203 recorded offences in 2016 compared to 149 in 2015.
The rate of crime in the area has shown a steady increase over the years, up 28.6 per cent since 2012.
Wellington Shire's 7.8 per cent increase still falls below the overall state-wide increase of 10.2 per cent, with 552,005 recorded offences across Victoria in 2016.
A large proportion of this increase is attributed to increases in property and deception offences, which were up 11 per cent and comprised 60.1 per cent of all recorded crimes in Victoria in 2016.
Most of the state increase was due to increased theft offences, with more than one third of all recorded offences in Victoria being theft related.
Offender incidents increased by 11.9 per cent to 179,267 offender incidents in the year ending December 2016, making the Victorian offender rate 2,961.4 offender incidents per 100,000 population.
Almost half of all offenders were aged between 20 and 34, with this age group making up 46 per cent of all offender incidents in the last 12 months.
Neighbouring Latrobe increased 8.9 per cent, with 19,725.9 offences per 100,000 estimated resident population, falling just behind Melbourne, at an increase of 5 per cent with 27,299.4 offences per 100,000 estimated resident population, for the highest rate of crime per population in the state.
For more information in relation to Crime Statistics, visit www.crimestatistics.vic.gov.au.