POLICE have responded to reports about high levels of violence or sexual violence in the ward of St Helens town centre.

The Liverpool Echo, examining the crime picture across Merseyside, cited figures released by Police UK.

The data suggests that between January and December 2019, there were 1,422 cases of violence and sexual offences recorded in the council ward.

The area is a large council ward that goes beyond the traditional boundaries of the "town centre", covering areas such as Fingerpost and Greenbank.

Police chiefs in St Helens put the figures down to "improved crime recording", adding that the numbers of violence resulting in injury have fallen year on year.

The report suggests the figures work out as 122 cases for every 1,000 people living there higher than Birkenhead and Tranmere in Wirral and Central Liverpool.

Central Liverpool showed 94 for every 1,000 residents.

In a statement Superintendent Tami Garvey-Jones, who heads policing in St Helens, said: “The category ‘violence and sexual offences’ includes a wide range of crimes, and the rise can largely be attributed to an improvement in crime recording.

“A significant amount of work has been done to ensure that crimes are recorded accurately in line with Home Office counting rules, which changed in 2016 meaning crimes were subsequently recorded on a ‘per offender’ basis as opposed to ‘per victim’.

St Helens Star:

Superintendent Tami Garvey-Jones

"This has resulted in an increased level of crimes being recorded without necessarily meaning there has been an increased number of victims.

“In addition to this, publicity around sex offences, especially historical crimes, also means victims now have greater confidence in coming forward and reporting incidents to us.

“While there has been an overall, albeit slight increase in sexual offences as a whole in the St Helens Town ward for the period April 2019 – January 2020 (84 incidents compared to 80 the previous year) the number of rape offences has decreased by 39.5per cent. (38 in the year ending January 2019 to 23 In the year ending January 2020).

“Alongside improved recording of violent crime offences, most of the increase can be attributed to incidents where, although violence has been used, it has resulted in either a minor injury or no injury at all.

"Other crimes recorded as violence may also include public order offences, such as harassment, where no violence has been used. Compared to the same period last year, St Helens Town ward has seen a three per cent fall in violence with injury offences."

Concerns have been raised about policing numbers across the St Helens borough following cutbacks. In November 2018, the Star reported how St Helens councillors unanimously condemned a reduction of officers over the previous eight years and supported a motion calling on the Government to restore police funding back to 2010 levels.

Last summer the Star reported last year how St Helens Council’s safer communities overview and scrutiny panel had been told funding would pay for additional officers to be deployed in the town centre every Friday and Saturday until March 2020.

Superintendent Garvey-Jones' statement added: “We continue to work closely with partners to ensure St Helens remains a safe place to live, work and visit and would encourage the public to continue to come forward and report crime in their area so we can take action and remove offenders from our communities.

“We have invested significant money into Operation Target, a force wide operation to tackle serious violence, and dedicated staff and additional resources, alongside local policing officers are regularly deployed into areas of St Helens where violence is a priority.

"Patrols are also regularly increased within the night time economy to reduce violence and ensure people feel safe when they go out.

“Our specialist Unity Team are dedicated to investigating and supporting victims of sex offences from the initial report of the incident through to the end process, maximising the best possible chance of conviction.

“Support for victims is also available through the registered charity the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre Cheshire and Merseyside, who can be contacted on 01925 221 546 or 0330 363 0063 or Rape and Sexual Assault Merseyside (RASA) on 0151 558 1801.”