Reported crime has fallen over the last year in North Hampshire but drug offences have risen, police records reveal.

Hampshire Constabulary recorded 21,615 offences in Basingstoke and the wider North Hampshire region in the 12 months to December, according to the Office for National Statistics.

That was a decrease of 15 per cent compared to the previous year, when there were 25,352. But drug crimes have risen by 37 per cent.

At 59 crimes per 1,000 people, that was far lower than the rate across England and Wales, which stood at 81.

Crimes recorded in North Hampshire included:

- 803 sexual offences, a decrease of 12 per cent

- 8,772 violent offences, a decrease of four per cent

- 2,283 incidents of criminal damage and arson, down 21 per cent

- 794 drug offences, up 37 per cent

- 277 possession of weapons such as firearms or knives, down six per cent

-2,553 public order offences, up six per cent

-5,454 theft offences, down 36 per cent

Overall, police recorded eight per cent fewer crimes across England and Wales – there were around 5.6 million offences in the year to December.

The ONS said the annual drop was mainly driven by a “substantial fall” in crime of 15 per cent between April and June as the first lockdown restrictions were introduced.

While police-recorded crimes increased from July to September as restrictions were gradually eased, they fell again in the last three months of the year as lockdown measures were reimposed, it added.

Sophie Sanders, of the ONS Centre for Crime and Justice, said: “There were fluctuations in the level of crime experienced in England and Wales throughout 2020.

“Although a small proportion of these fluctuations will be the result of seasonal effects on crime trends, the majority can be attributed to the introduction and subsequent easing of national lockdown restrictions throughout the year.

“Most crime types have seen recorded offences fall year-on-year. The notable exceptions are drug offences, because of proactive police activity in crime hotspots during the first lockdown, while violence against the person also saw a small increase.”

Crest Advisory, a criminal justice consultancy, said it is not surprising that crime patterns were "hugely affected" by the unprecedented restrictions of the pandemic.

But it noted that drug offences across England and Wales rose by 15 per cent and there was a 7% increase in the number of domestic abuse-related offences recorded by police in 2020.

Danny Shaw, head of strategy and insight at the organisation, added: "The rise in drugs offences was principally due to greater police activity in tackling dealers and organised crime gangs, who were also easier to spot with fewer people out on the street.

"The increase in reports of domestic abuse may well be linked to lockdown, when people in abusive relationships were forced to spend long periods together."