A SNAPPED pencil may not sound the most serious violent offence but it is the kind of statistic, police chiefs claim, which is distorting perceptions of crime.
Crime figures were down overall last year across Maidstone and Malling with significant reductions in a number of areas including burglary and vehicle break-ins.
However double digit percentage reductions in these crime categories, the best in the county, were overshadowed by an extra 293 "violent" crimes across the police area.
Area commander Supt Mark Salisbury claims the reality is masked by changes in the way crimes are now recorded and the breadth of offences included within the category.
He said: "I can say with confidence there hasn't been an increase of violence crime of the type that people would associate with the term.
"Gang violence, murder, gun crime have certainly not increased. Violent crime covers such a massive range of things from the most minor assault to murder.
"It is an historic example but a couple of years ago we received a report of a child at a school who deliberately broke his pencil. It was recorded as a violent crime."
Incidents are also counted, following changes in counting methods demanded by the Home Office, which would previously have been ignored.
Supt Salisbury said: "I'm not saying the new counting rules are wrong but it doesn't give people a true and accurate picture of crime in Maidstone and Malling.
"If you take burglaries, for example. In Maidstone and Malling there are an average 700,000 people plus people coming into the area to work or socialise. Despite the number of people here there is an average of just one burglary per day and 16 across Kent. Some people think that figure is much higher."
Violent crime statistics for the period April 1 2003 to March 31 2004 were also affected by a Kent-wide campaign to encourage victims of domestic violence to come forward.