A NEW super police division covering all of south Oxfordshire has launched with a pledge to step up patrols to combat drink-fuelled assaults.

Supt Rob Povey, the new area commander for the Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire, made the pledge after Thames Valley Police linked the two force areas.

He spoke as figures for the 12 months from April 2010 showed that overall crime has fallen across the South and Vale.

The former head of roads policing said reducing the number of drink-related assaults was one of his top priorities.

During the past year, there were 55 assaults in Abingdon, 80 in Didcot, 24 in Wantage, 31 in Wallingford and 51 in Henley.

Mr Povey said: “A large number of these assaults can be linked to closing time at late-night premises. One of the areas where we are stepping up police patrols is Broadway in Didcot.

“There is sometimes trouble when licensed premises at either end of the street close about 3am.

“We expect people to go out and enjoy themselves but there are houses close to Broadway and we don’t want members of the public to be disturbed.

“We will be sending out extra patrols in problem areas and putting officers on later shifts so that they can target licensed premises.”

Extra patrols started last weekend following concerns from residents, he said.

The new structure built on close work between South and Vale district councils, which have some responsibilities for antisocial behaviour.

Mr Povey said he hoped crime would continue to fall in the coming year despite a reduction in the total number of frontline officers in the new area from 207 to 190.

The recession had added new challenges, he said, but Supt Povey insisted that “most people will not resort to crime”.

In the Vale, crime overall fell by 1.5 per cent from 5,079 in 2009-10 to 5,005 in 2010-11. This fell 2.7 per cent from 7,186 to 6,993 in South Oxfordshire. In the Vale, burglaries, robberies, car thefts, and thefts from vehicles fell by 12.2 per cent on the previous year, from 558 to 490 recorded crimes. This fell 12.5 per cent from 1,124 to 984 in South Oxfordshire.

But serious sex offences were up 56.8 per cent in the Vale, from 37 to 58, and 22.6 per cent in South Oxfordshire, from 53 to 65. The force said this reflected more being reported.

The most serious violence cases increased by 17.2 per cent in South Oxfordshire, from 29 to 34, and by 133.3 per cent in the Vale, from 12 to 28.

Robberies went up from 11 to 14 in the Vale and 51 to 25 in South Oxfordshire.

Mr Povey’s deputy is Chief Insp Andy Boyd, former police area commander for the Vale.

He said: “The Vale has been a very successful police area and we are looking forward to the challenge of developing a new police area and continuing the good work that has been done over the past few years.”