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The north west is one of the nine official regions of England. Consisting of five counties – Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside – the north west has a population of just over seven million – making it the third most populous region of the UK.

The region is policed by five constabularies – one for each county.

We’re curious to see which of these police forces encounters the highest levels of crime.

By looking at the differences in crime rates between counties, we want to understand which areas of the north west are the most dangerous – as well as give readers an idea of what sorts of crime are most likely to occur where they live.

So, to find out, we looked at recent annual crime statistics published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). We used crime figures for the year ending June 2019 – though more recent stats have been published, due to a computer system error, these did not contain figures for Greater Manchester, and as such were not suitable for our purposes here.

To account for population discrepancies, we’ve ordered our list in terms of the crime rate per 1,000 people.


5) Cumbria Constabulary – Crime Rate Per 1,000 People: 75.3 (37,545 crimes recorded)

Cumbria Constabulary polices a 2,268 square mile area and is headquartered in Penrith. A relatively small force – the seventh smallest in the country, in fact – Cumbria Constabulary nevertheless maintains law and order over a vast area. That said, much of Cumbria is made up by isolated rural communities, meaning the the population is only around 500,000 – the smallest of all the counties in the north west.

Over one year, the force recorded:

  1. 14,960 violence against the person offences
  2. 1,634 sexual offences
  3. 140 robberies
  4. 9,615 theft offences
  5. 5,687 criminal damage and arson offences
  6. 965 drug offences
  7. 274 possession of a weapon offences
  8. 3,506 public order offences
  9. 764 miscellaneous crimes

Compared with other parts of England, Cumbria is a very safe area to both live and to visit. However, like many areas of the UK, knife crime and other violent offences have been increasing in Cumbria.

Partly to address this, Cumbria Youth Commission recently launched its “Big Conversation” scheme to gather meaningful views from 14-25 year-olds to help police support local youths and prevent youth crime.


4) Cheshire Constabulary – Crime Rate Per 1,000 People: 87.3 (95,516 crimes recorded)

Cheshire Constabulary is responsible for policing the unitary authorities of Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Halton and Warrington – a total of 905 square miles. Despite covering a relatively small geographic area, the population of Cheshire Constabulary’s jurisdiction is a considerable one million.

Over one year, the force recorded:

  1. 33,322 violence against the person offences
  2. 2,716 sexual offences
  3. 483 robberies
  4. 24,753 theft offences
  5. 9,715 criminal damage and arson offences
  6. 2,108 drug offences
  7. 487 possession of a weapon offences
  8. 17,149 public order offences
  9. 1,783 miscellaneous crimes

The average crime rate per 1,000 people in the UK is 89.3. Given Cheshire Constabulary has a crime rate per 1,000 people of 87.9, it’s safe to say that Cheshire is around average in terms of public safety for both residents and visitors.

However, like so many places, the area has not escaped the influence of county lines drug activity. To counter increases in serious crime, Cheshire Constabulary recently announced that each of the county’s 122 policing communities will get its own dedicated police constable.


3) Merseyside Police – Crime Rate Per 1,000 People: 93.7 (133,272 crimes recorded)

In terms of geographic area of responsibility, Merseyside is the third smallest territorial police force in England – responsible for an area of just 250 square miles. That said, the population living in that area – which includes Liverpool – is nearly 1.5 million.

Over one year, the force recorded:

  1. 45,428 violence against the person offences
  2. 3,250 sexual offences
  3. 1,403 robberies
  4. 42,199 theft offences
  5. 15,601 criminal damage and arson offences
  6. 9,081 drug offences
  7. 1,073 possession of a weapon offences
  8. 12,450 public order offences
  9. 2,787 miscellaneous crimes

Like other densely populated areas of the UK, Merseyside has seen an increase in violent crime over the last few years. This is reflected by the fact that the county recently witnessed a ten-year high in convictions and cautions for knife and other offensive weapons crimes.

Still, compared with other densely populated areas of England, Merseyside’s crime rate pre 1,000 people of 93.7 is fairly low.


2) Lancashire Constabulary – Crime Rate Per 1,000 People: 108.3 (162,194 crimes recorded)

Responsible for policing the ceremonial county of Lancashire, Lancashire Constabulary is headquartered in Hutton. Lancashire Constabulary has a jurisdiction of 1,120 square miles and a population of nearly 1.5 million.

Over one year, the force recorded:

  1. 62,406 violence against the person offences
  2. 5,320 sexual offences
  3. 1,249 robberies
  4. 52,967 theft offences
  5. 19,350 criminal damage and arson offences
  6. 2,404 drug offences
  7. 861 possession of a weapon offences
  8. 14,051 public order offences
  9. 3,586 miscellaneous crimes

Crime in Lancashire makes up around 20 percent of all crime in the north west. This is likely because Lancashire is home to several relatively large conurbations – Preston, Blackpool. Blackburn and Burnley.

Though recording fairly high levels of crime compared with the national average, Lancashire Constabulary were recently rated as good at reducing crime, keeping people safe and protecting vulnerable people.


1) Greater Manchester Police – Crime Rate Per 1,000 People: 116.7 (328,268 crimes recorded)

Greater Manchester Police is the fifth largest police service in the UK and the third largest in England and Wales. Responsible for almost three million people, Greater Manchester Police is headquartered in the Newton Heath area of Manchester.

Over one year, the force recorded:

  1. 97,781 violence against the person offences
  2. 9,523 sexual offences
  3. 7,416 robberies
  4. 120,557 theft offences
  5. 34,314 criminal damage and arson offences
  6. 6,080 drug offences
  7. 3,974 possession of a weapon offences
  8. 40,664 public order offences
  9. 7,959 miscellaneous crimes

Greater Manchester Police recorded a higher total number of crimes and a higher crime rate per 1,000 people than any other north west county. This makes it the most dangerous county in the north west.

Like Cheshire, it was recently announced that every Greater Manchester ward will have its own named neighbourhood constable introduced either this year or the next. With knife crime still a major issue for the county, the hope is that the extra police presence will keep residents safer and reduce crime.

Taken as a whole, the north west’s crime rate per 1,000 people of 103.4 is significantly higher than the UK’s average of 89.3. This is made up significantly by Greater Manchester and Lancashire – which both have crime rates per 1,000 people substantially higher than the national average. However, Merseyside (when compared to other cities and densely populated areas), Cheshire and Cumbria remain relatively safe counties.

Want to learn more?

Find out which south east police force records the highest number of crimes – or which police force in the south west is the most dangerous.

Or find out which parts of London are the most dangerous.

Do you operate a business in the north west? Churchill Security is a leading UK security provider and a trusted supplier of expert security solutions to businesses operating in the south west of England.

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John Melling is a Director for Churchill Security Ltd. John is a highly motivated, determined and decisive security industry professional. Drawing on his extensive experience gained within the security industry whilst working on the coalface John has operated at all levels within the industry. He has a proven track record for motivating and leading high performance teams and has helped mentor and develop many people at Churchill who now hold key or senior positions within the business. John is committed to delivering only the finest services, exercising compelling leadership, maintaining good internal morale and striving to resolve any challenges efficiently and effectively.