VIOLENT crime has risen in Herefordshire over the last year, amid warnings of an epidemic sweeping the country.

The Police Federation said officers across England and Wales were struggling to "deliver the basics", and warned the benefits of promised new recruits would not be felt for some time.

West Mercia recorded 4,175 incidents of violent crime in Herefordshire in the 12 months to June, according to the Office for National Statistics.

That was an increase of 15% compared to the previous year.

At 21.7 crimes per 1,000 people, that's lower than the rate across England and Wales, which stood at 28.7.

One of the main factors behind the increase was the increase in stalking and harassment, which rose by 26% , from 813 incidents to 1,027.

Offences of violence with injury increased by 11% and violence without injury by 12%, reaching 1,368 and 1,774 respectively.

There was also one homicide, which include murders and manslaughters, down by two on the previous 12 months.

The ONS said improvements to reporting and recording practices by police could be behind the increase.

John Apter, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "These figures once again come as no surprise as officers continue to struggle to deal with delivering the basics in policing which is incredibly frustrating for them.

"With forces snowed under by demand, unable to answer all 999 calls in some cases, chiefs are having to make some difficult decisions over which services need to be reined back."

The total number of offences in Herefordshire increased by 3%, with police recording 10,839 crimes over the course of the year.

This puts the overall crime rate at 56.4 per 1,000 people, compared to a national average of 89.3.

The National Police Chiefs' Council lead for crime, Chief Constable Andy Cooke, said while the rise was concerning, use of targeted stop and search and other measures had helped reduce the rate of increase.

He said: "In the past few years cuts to policing have meant we've become more reactive to crime.

"With the recruitment of additional officers we will have more people on the beat and more people investigating and preventing crime."