CRIME rates in South Tyneside have risen for the first time in six years.
New figures released by the police show a spike in the number of crimes being committed in the borough.
VERITY WARD spoke to shoppers in King Street, South Shields, to find out their views and see how vulnerable they feel.
The difference between people’s fear of crime and the hard statistics has long been a matter of debate – but people of South Tyneside still feel safe despite a rise in the crime rate for the first time in six years.
Latest police statistics have revealed overall crime across the borough has increased by 11 per cent in the last year from 6,476 to 7,214.
In particular, sexual offences were up by 41 per cent and violent crime increased by 28 per cent between April 2013 and March 2014.
However, the majority of shoppers in King Street, South Shields, said that, while they were surprised at the rise, they still feel safe.
Jimmy Tighe, 76, from Westoe, South Shields, was quite alarmed to discover there’s been such a hike in the statistics.
The retired HGV driver said: “I can’t believe there’s been such an increase. Mind, you don’t seem to see as many police officers about in the town but I guess everywhere is making cutbacks and they can’t be everywhere at once.
“I still think the town is safe. I’m not worried about crime and I don’t feel unsafe.”
Les Evans from Simonside, South Shields, says he makes sure he stays safe by keeping out of harm’s way but is also shocked to learn of the higher figures.
The 85-year-old said: “While I am shocked to see that crime has gone up in the borough, I guess I make sure I am safe by not putting myself in danger in the first place.
“I won’t go out at late at night, just in case, but it is worrying if the crime is increasing.”
David Glen, 51, from Jarrow, feels perfectly safe.
The bricklayer said: “I’m not worried about crime rates, I’ve never been affected, and I can’t say anyone I know has.
“I guess more people might report things now, so that could be why they’ve gone up. But I don’t feel vulnerable or anything like that.”
John Ellis, from Jarrow, says he’s more worried about issues like parking and potholes than crime.
The 72-year-old retired lecturer at South Tyneside College, said: “There’s dogs either side of my home, so I am not worried about burglaries or anything like that. I feel very safe. I think I am more concerned about things like parking spaces and the state of the borough’s roads. They have more an impact for me personally.”
However, Agnes Thompson, 66, from Castletown in Sunderland, who shops in South Shields, is aware of problems but says she always feels safe when visiting the borough.
She said: “I love coming to Shields. I think it’s a very safe town and I spend a lot of time here.
“I do think crime in general is on the up and getting worse. On Thursday night my son, who lives near me, was told someone was siphoning petrol from his car, so crimes like that must be happening all over.
“There needs to be tougher sentences to deter people I think. That will stop them and reduce the crime rates.”
Despite the older generations being mainly surprised by the latest figures, Gary Croft-Hill, 17, a media student at South Tyneside College said crime was something he and his pals were used to.
The teenager from Chichester said: “I’m not shocked by the figures. You do hear of things happening all of the time, especially when talking at college. So I guess I am used to it, really.
“I think perhaps people need to be made aware that these kind of things do go on, and they should be highlighted.”