A MASSIVE spike in armed robberies appears to have coincided with an increase in heroin use across the Hunter.
The latest crime figures released yesterday shows 173 armed robberies across the Hunter for the year to March compared to 110 for the same period the year before.
It included a 63 per cent increase in the amount of robberies with a weapon not a firearm (135 compared to 83), a crime considered by law enforcement officers as the opportunistic hold-up favoured by addicts.
And for the first time in more than a decade, there have been incidents of people being charged with possessing narcotics, an obvious pointer to the use of heroin increasing.
NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research director Dr Don Weatherburn said although there was a major spike in armed robberies, the increases were felt across all of the region's local government areas.
"None of the individual trends were significant, but added to together they created a major spike," Dr Weatherburn said.
The Hunter also continued to suffer from petrol theft, with another major increase in the numbers of steal from motor vehicle offences being put down to the taking of number plates.
Lake Macquarie local government area appeared to have the worst comparable figures, with increases in burglary (16 per cent), car theft (14 per cent), stealing from cars (23 per cent) and shoplifting (14 per cent).
At Cessnock, there were increases in car theft (35 per cent) and stealing from cars (38 per cent), but decreases in non-domestic assaults (24 per cent) and break and enter a non-dwelling (21 per cent).
Maitland had a 22 per cent drop in shoplifting, Newcastle experienced a 7 per cent increase in domestic assaults, Muswellbrook had a 98 per cent increase in stealing from cars while Singleton and Port Stephens were steady.