IN the aftermath of a conviction for a violent rape in South Craven, police have revealed serious assaults across the area have increased by nearly 60 per cent over the last year.

Eighty-four serious assaults, including actual bodily harm (ABH), were recorded for South Craven between August 31 2004 and September 1 2005 - an increase of 34 from the previous year.

The figures come after 16-year-old Sean Regan, of Beanlands Place, Cross Hills, was jailed for seven years last week after admitting rape and making threats to kill after drinking one-and-a-half litres of vodka.

Sgt Steve Scott, of Cross Hills Police, told the Herald the attack had rocked the community and said the area had been quiet since Regan's court case.

Reflecting on the increase in serious assaults at last week's South Craven Area Forum meeting, he said: "This, in my experience, is mainly down to alcohol. People get too much alcohol inside themselves and decide to take on the world. Occasionally they try to take on us and each other and start fighting and assaulting each other."

Other crime figures, however, have reduced over the year, with house burglaries seeing the biggest decline from 51 to 23.

Public order offences have also nearly halved, from 21 to 12.

The theft of motor vehicles has been slashed from 40 to 23, while just one offence of vehicle interference was recorded this year, compared to 20 last year.

Common assaults have reduced from 27 to nine and criminal damage stayed almost static at 141 incidents, compared to 140 last year.

Other thefts, including shoplifting and theft from gardens, reduced from 173 to 152.

However, the South Craven district did see an increase of theft from motor vehicles, from 42 to 57.

Sgt Scott said: "The good news is, in the previous year the area had a 28 per cent crime detection. This has increased to 32 per cent. It is still down on the Craven area of 40 per cent and officers are trying. They are being pushed by me to increase detection which can be done with the help of the public.

"If the public are not telling us who is committing crime, we are unable to act on it. We cover a massive area and to get our 10 officers to outlying areas is not easy.

"I would urge people, if they have information, to call the police or Crimestoppers."

Sutton councillor Steven Place said: "This is a very positive response from police, it is good news to everyone tonight."

Coun Place praised new Police Community Support Officer Jason Perkins, stating that the new style of neighbourhood policing had "worked wonders" with youths in Sutton.

But Coun Place was concerned that extended licensing hours could put a strain on officers.

Craven's Chief Inspector Chris Chelton, who attended the forum, said it was a major concern for his force.

He added: "We have been making objections where we feel it has been necessary."

He said police had reached an agreement with Strata nightclub (formerly Bliss) in Skipton for it to open until 3am which he was "quite relieved about". He said it allowed policing with existing resources.

He said the force was still deciding whether to appeal against the decision for Skipton's Devonshire pub (Wetherspoons) to stay open until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays.