CRIME in Southampton has gone up for the fifth year in a row, with numbers being "significantly higher than the national average", it has been revealed.

Modern slavery, cruelty to children, blackmail and arsons were the offences to have increased the most in the city in the last year, according to new figures.

The data published by Southampton City Council in a report also show there were "notable increases" in violent crime, serious knife crime and residential burglary.

The news comes as the document revealed that between 2018 and 2019 crime levels in Hampshire and Portsmouth have gone down.

Civic chiefs and police bosses said there are a number of reasons for the increase in Southampton, which in 2018/19 had 126.1 recorded crimes per 1,000 population.

According to the report, this is "significantly higher" than the national average of 86.7 per 1,000 population.

But police and city bosses ensured that action is being taken.

The document revealed that cruelty to children was the biggest offence to increase in 2018/19 with 180 cases reported, 83 more than in 2017/18 (85.6% increase).

Modern slavery was the second biggest riser in 2018/19 with 30 incidents, up from 17 the year before, a 76.5% increase.

They were followed by blackmail (65.3% higher), arsons (59.1% higher) and stalking and harassment which had seen a 46.1% increase.

Meanwhile, violent crime was the largest offence in the last financial year with 11,079 incidents, 779 more than in 2017/18.

The data also revealed that overall crime rate has gone up by 1% over the last year, with a total of 31,890 crimes reported in 2018/19, 301 more than the year before.

Hampshire Police Chief Inspector Phil Lamb said people have now a better understanding of how to identify a child at risk or signs of modern slavery and this could have contributed to the increase in numbers.

He added: "Whilst we have seen a large percentage increase in the number of incidents described as cruelty to children and young persons, the number does remain low. We now have more opportunities to take action against offenders and protect vulnerable people, who before may have gone unnoticed and suffered in plain sight."

However, some crimes have decreased in the last year, including non-residential burglaries (20% decrease), vehicle offences (10.7% decrease) and rape (4.7% decrease).

Cllr Dave Shields, cabinet member for healthier and safer city at the city council, said work to tackle the issue is ongoing.

But he added that the extra police officers set to be deployed across the country are not in place yet.

"Southampton has always had a higher crime rate than the national figures because of the nature of the city. It is disappointing that there has been a drop of crime in Hampshire and Portsmouth but Southampton has gone up,"he added.

The report found that crime had increased within ten city wards, and fallen in six.

The largest increases were seen in Bitterne (11.5%), Harefield (8.1%) and Freemantle (7.5%).

Crime has also gone up in the city centre with a 3.2% increase in Bargate.

Ward councillor Sarah Bogle has called for a "fair share" of police officers in the city.

She said: "I understand there is going to be additional resources. I would like to see more police so that we can deal with more issues. We do need more police officers in Southampton."

Meanwhile, the largest decrease was seen in Coxford (-14%)

Crime rate also decreased in Bevois (-5.6%), Sholing (-3.8%) and Woolston (-2.9%).

Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith said figures are disappointing.

"I have been lobbying government for more police resources for years. I am pleased the Prime Minister has responded by committing to an additional 20,000 police officers. Southampton’s share of that will be very welcome", he added.

Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner Enzo Riglia said last summer the Police and Crime Commissioner was given Home Office funding to establish a Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) in Hampshire "which is bringing together partners from policing, probation education, health and local authorities to identify the root causes of violence and develop solutions to reduce it".

The Safe City Partnership is also working together with other partners across the city to understand the causes of crime in Southampton and to take action.