RE-OFFENDING rates in Hartlepool remain among the worst in the country but the situation is slowly improving, according to officials.
More than a third of town criminals re-offend, placing Hartlepool second nationally, but probation chiefs have moved to reassure councillors at a council meeting.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s audit and governance committee is carrying out a scrutiny investigation into re-offending and officers from the council and Durham Tees Valley Probation Trust gave a presentation at a meeting yesterday.
Latest figures show over a 12-month period between April 2012 and March this year, there was 1,704 offenders in Hartlepool, with 93 per cent being adults.
A total of 531 of those offenders went on to re-offend, a rate of 35.6 per cent, with 498 adult repeat offenders and 33 juvenile repeat offenders, with 76 per cent of those aged between 16 and 17.
Of the adult repeat offenders, statistics show that theft and handling stolen goods and violence against the person make up almost 50 per cent of the offences committed.
The majority of adult re-offenders were male - 420 - with 78 women caught re-offending.
Committee members were told re-offending is a key issue for communities and there is a “strong multi-agency approach” aimed at tackling the problem.
Officials are now using more up-to-date figures and probation chiefs say they have analysed figures which reveal those who go on to re-offend have a different “criminogenic needs profile”, to those who don’t re-offend.
Problems with unemployment, drugs misuse, accommodation and financial management all feature prominently in the profiles of re-offenders.
Helen Vitty, of Durham Tees Valley Probation Trust, told the committee: “Hartlepool is second worst in the country for proven re-offending rates but it is often unfair to make comparisons because you would have to find a similar town with the same problems.
“It may be second worst, but it is getting better, slowly but surely.”
Independent councillor Keith Fisher, chairman of the committee, said re-offending was a massive problem nationally.
He said: “Each offence has a victim. There may be people wondering why so much effort is put into this, but it is because of the victims that we are trying to protect and to deal with the criminals.”
Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher (left) said: “What frustrates me is when you read the court round-ups and it is the same people and families.
“These people think it is acceptable to live their lives by creating havoc for the rest of the community.
“I believe as a nation we are too soft on crime and it is something that I get very frustrated about.”
Coun Akers-Belcher also called for more work to be done on the link between drug addiction and crime levels.
Reducing offending and re-offending rates is also a key priority of the Safer Hartlepool Partnership.