Wiltshire Police say they are “immensely proud” that official figures released today show that the county recorded the lowest number of crimes in England and Wales – but their watchdog has poured cold water on the achievement.

Crime figures released by the Offices for National Statistics (ONS) show that in the 12 months to September 2021 Wiltshire Police recorded the fewest crimes of the 42 forces.

A Police spokesman said: “The number of reported crimes per head of population is 52.7 crimes for every 1,000 residents - the lowest figure of all police forces in England and Wales.”

He added: “Those areas showing an increase in reporting of crime include violence without injury, stalking and harassment, sexual offences, public order offences and robbery. In these crime areas Wiltshire Police remain below the levels of similar force areas.

“For example violence without injury, which has seen a 5.5 per cent increase in the most recent 12 month period is the 7th lowest in the country per head of population.”

But Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Wilkinson says he isn’t celebrating because the statistics don’t reflect the bigger picture.

He said: “I am always sceptical when I’m presented with crime statistics as I have now heard from many residents who no longer report crime concerns to the police, because they’re not confident that anything will be done about it.

“Therefore, it’s difficult to celebrate a reported reduction in crime when we don’t have the full picture, and many continue to suffer in silence.”

Today’s report by the ONS also show that Wiltshire Police saw an 8 per cent increase in reports of sexual offences - including reports of rape.

And there was a 12 per cent increase in reported stalking and harassment offences, where Wiltshire is second lowest nationally in recorded crimes per head of population with 5.36 crimes for every 1,000 people, significantly below the average in similar force areas of 10.64 per 1,000.

The police spokesman said: “Whilst increases in these areas may be taken as a concern, the uplift in reporting of these cases by victims is being cautiously welcomed by Wiltshire Police as a reflection of the huge amount of work that has been undertaken to address the understanding that this is a crime type that is often under reported by victims.

Supt Sarah Robbins said: “While we shouldn’t rely on statistics to tell the whole story - the indications from this latest set of results reflect the real achievements we are making as an organisation to drive down crime volume throughout the county.

“We never forget that behind these statistics are real victims of crime - and we cautiously welcome the indication that we have fewer victims of crime per head of population than all 42 other police forces in England and Wales.

“Whilst we accept that not all crime is reported, we have been working hard to encourage community engagement and trust with our officers in order to reach out to victims.

“We are beginning to see notable success in this regard, as evidenced by increased reporting of stalking and harassment and sexual offences.

“These figures bring into sharp focus the fact that despite being one of the lowest funded forces in the country - we are among the top performing areas when compared to similar force areas.

“We recognise that there is still much work to be done.

“But at the same time we should take encouragement from these results, especially the overall fall in the number of victims of crime which reflects the hard work and professionalism shown at all levels of the organisation which continues to respond highly effectively in the face of increasing demand, at a time of huge challenge and change for the organisation.

“We never rest on our laurels, it’s important to recognise and cautiously welcome the great strides we have made as an organisation.

“The achievements to date are the result of a culture of embracing transparency, scrutiny and a desire to continually adapt and improve as we evolve as an organisation to meet the rapidly changing nature of crime and public protection.

“Working closely with the Police and Crime Commissioner, who has a vital role in holding the force to account on behalf of the public, we continue to seek to make constant improvements as an organisation.

“In Wiltshire Police there is a culture of duty and professionalism that runs like a thread through everything we do - I am immensely proud of what we have achieved and continue to build upon.”