New figures show that Devon and Cornwall have the second lowest reported crime rate in England and Wales.

At the same time 144 extra police officers have joined the region's police force - the highest increase in "at least a decade."

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures released today show crime has reduced by 9.5 per cent in the police force area during the 12-month period to the end of September 2020.

In comparison, England and Wales as a whole has seen a decrease of 4.9 per cent.

Assistant Chief Constable Jim Nye welcomed the news and praised staff and officers.

He said: “Devon and Cornwall have always been one of the safest areas in the country. To have that confirmed again by ONS data over a year-long period is a great result for Devon and Cornwall Police and the communities we serve.

“While the figures only highlight the beginning of the lockdown period, it shows the significant effect it has had, particularly around burglary and vehicle-related crime.

"I am proud to say our workforce continues to adapt and overcome this constantly fluctuating period.

“The figures highlight how hard our officers, staff and volunteers are working to reduce crime, as well as keep local communities safe.

“Although crime figures are only one area of performance we measure, my hope is our communities will feel reassured that we are working with them and partners to reduce crime and the fear of crime.

“We are pleased to see our efforts are paying off, but we will never stop working to make sure that communities are safe and secure.”

A rise has been seen in two categories within the crime statistics, however: a 10.9 per cent rise in possession of weapons and 1.3 per cent rise in drug offences.

However, ACC Nye said these have been seen due to a "continued effort in proactive policing to target these areas of crime."

He added: “These results show our excellent work in targeting the likes of county line gangs, where vulnerable children and young adults are recruited to deal drugs, is having an effect.

“We are sending a clear message to the criminals behind these crimes, that we absolutely will not tolerate their activities.”

Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: “These are not ordinary times, and consequently these are not an ordinary set of figures. They only cover a few weeks of the lockdown period but we can see what a colossal effect that is has had on crime.

“I’m pleased that with all the doom and gloom around we can deliver some good news in that residents of Devon and Cornwall are safer in terms of a crime threat than they have been.

"Lockdown made life harder for criminals, and it also made it easier for police to identify criminal activity like county lines drug dealing."

She added that a recent recruitment drive has added 144 more police officers to the force in this financial year - something she said was the highest increase the force had in at least a decade.