A CRIME rise in Barnsley during the last 12 months is because of more police officers being available to record reports, it has been claimed this week.

Statistics released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that while there’s been decreases in criminal damage, arson, sexual offences and theft - all key priorities for police following the publication of the previous year’s figures - drug offences, weapon possession, burglary and harassment cases have spiked.

Drug-related offences rocketed by 32 per cent in the town - a figure attributed to continued problems with spice - while possession of weapons, notably knives, increased by 28 per cent.

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “The message from the figures shows that by raising the awareness of how to report certain crimes such as stalking and harassment, more crimes are being reported.

“In South Yorkshire we have received funding from the Home Office to increase police activity to directly disturb organised crime, increase stop and search and stop violence.

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“The figures reflect what we have said all along - with additional police activity, there is an increase in the number of crimes recorded. This is not bad news for communities as we start to see those involved in organised crime be disrupted and taken off the streets.

“We know that over the past nine years - the years of austerity - that criminals have taken advantage of falling police numbers. The government has finally recognised the folly of those cuts and is seeking to increase police numbers.

“I expect to see all of this to bear fruit in future years.”

South Yorkshire bucked a national trend by posting a one per cent increase in its overall crime - opposed to a six per cent increase across the country and seven per cent in the Yorkshire and Humber region - but concerns remain over burglaries and drug-related offences which have blighted the town in recent months.

The force said it is treating burglary as one of its top priorities, which has seen Barnsley officers increase their patrols following a summer of reports.

According to the ONS, 1,411 residential burglaries took place, while a further 646 incidents of business-related burglary took the total figure to 2,057.

Although Barnsley is set to lose some of its PCSOs after bosses opted to cut numbers from 194 to 116 in order to fill more PC posts, it’s hoped the increased number of police officers with more powers will drive down crime.

The town is set to receive another share of new PCs under plans outlined to ‘substantially’ grow South Yorkshire’s roster of officers announced by the government.

So far 55 have already been planned in this year’s budget as a result of a previous precept increase, while an additional 13 are also scheduled to take up their posts during this financial year.

That has been bolstered by the government’s announcement that it plans to finance up to 20,000 new posts across the country, which is set to filter down to local level.

Chief Constable Stephen Watson added: “Any extra officers will be in addition to the 220 officers that we have already committed to recruiting.

“South Yorkshire Police continues to be the most improved force in the country over the past three years. We are sustaining this momentum, we have great aspirations and we are determined to do the very best for the public whom we serve.

“We will have more police officers doing more policing and doing it well.”