NEW official police figures show that violent crime is rising in Inverclyde.

A report submitted to the police and fire scrutiny board says that between April and October crimes of violence shot up to 91, an increase of 18 on the same period last year.

Councillors on the board heard that the number of serious assaults is above the five-year average.

But Chief Superintendent Alan Murray says the figures must be seen in the context of the background to each case and told councillors that Inverclyde is a safe place for law abiding people.

The senior officer says most attacks occur as a result of someone's lifestyle or involvement in illegal activity.

Mr Murray said: "More of them are a result of someone's lifestyle or their involvement in criminality."

But he added: "One victim is just as important as another.

"We do not want to give the impression that Inverclyde is not a safe place to live and work."

Statistics show that the rate of violence in Inverclyde per 10k of the population is below the national average of 61.1 per cent.

Meanwhile other recorded crimes have also been on the rise during the latest accounting period.

Ch Supt Murray said the number of housebreakings 'crept up slightly' while there has been a substantial surge in the number of shoplifters.

He said: "Shoplifting has increased by a significant percentage.

"There were 257 - 56 more than last year."

"Thefts of food, groceries and alcohol are up by 30 per cent.

"My understanding is that people are selling these items to convert into cash."

On a more positive note Ch Supt Murray pointed to the fact that detection rates were up above the national average at 70.8 per cent, compared to 68.8 per cent Scotland-wide.

He also praised the Police Scotland Major Investigations Team, which leads the likes of murder probes, for their support in helping the local division solve serious cases.