CRIME levels in Darlington are rising, the police commissioner has admitted, with an increase in the number of people stealing to live.

County Durham Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Ron Hogg said it was a concern that levels of reported crime in the town are expected to be 12 per cent higher than last year, but that Darlington is still one of the safest places to live.

Mr Hogg said: “The fact is that crime is going up, about 10 per cent across the country. We are working very hard in Darlington to keep crime under control.

“Partnership work is helping but crime is up in the town itself by about 12 per cent.

“However, reoffending rates are lower than average in the town. In terms of anti-social behaviour, the figures have evened out this year after a drop of 23 per cent last year.

“The kind of crime that we are seeing an increase in is mainly around shoplifting, the theft of bicycles and shed burglaries. What we are beginning to see, which is very concerning, is an increasing element of crime because people are struggling to make ends meet.

“We are putting in measures to tackle that – for an example, if there are mothers stealing food, rather than automatically charging them and putting them through the courts, we will sit down and assess their situation.

“We will give them an action plan and if they can stick to that for a certain period and make progress then they won’t be charged. If they can be helped then the chance of reoffending is lessened.”

In his first year of office Mr Hogg has visited Darlington on a weekly basis to get to know the town and promote partnership work between the police and other public services in the face of budget cuts.

Mr Hogg spends time with councillors and MP Jenny Chapman, as well as organisations such as Age UK, Darlington Association on Disability and the women’s refuge to get their opinions on events in the town.

Mr Hogg said: “It is fair to say that there was a concern previously with the police authority that Darlington was being ignored – since I’ve been elected I’ve done a lot to try and assuage those fears.”