Case Studies

Crime returning to pre-lockdown

by Mark Rowe

Crime trends are returning towards pre-lockdown levels, say police, according to the fifth crime trends update since the beginning of lockdown restrictions across England and Wales.

Previous reporting showed a 28 per cent reduction for the four weeks to 12 April, a 25 per cent fall for the four weeks to 10 May, an 18 per cent fall in the four weeks to 7 June, and a 12 percent fall in recorded crime for the four week to 5 July. Reductions were again recorded for residential burglary, vehicle crime (including theft of and from a vehicle), assaults (including GBH and ABH, grievous bodily harm and actual bodily harm) and robbery and shoplifting. Forces have continued to see decreases, albeit at lower rates than previously reported, in 999 and 101 call volumes, by 10 per cent and 12 per cent respectively.

However, high street ops and security managers have told Professional Security of shop theft as at pre-coronavirus levels; and guarding firms are saying that opportunist theft has increased due to criminals with ‘time on their hands’. More in the October 2020 print edition of Professional Security magazine.

Earlier this month, as featured in the September 2020 print issue of Professional Security magazine, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ National Lead for Business Crime, Sussex PCC Katy Bourne, spoke of increased assaults and verbal intimidation; and that only a fraction of business crime across the country is reported to police.

Assaults on emergency service workers saw a 31 per cent rise compared to the same period last year. Police describe this as a snapshot of an offence type which is typically recorded in low volumes – data may therefore fluctuate between snapshots. The rise in assaults is largely due to increases in assaults without injury, which may be driven by scenarios such as common assault on staff.

These figures from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) covering 43 forces in England and Wales do not cover fraud – the number one crime by volume, that is; Action Fraud, the national reporting line for such crime, since March has said that its contact centre is only providing a ‘reduced service’, despite online frauds using every conceivable scam.

NPCC Chair Martin Hewitt said: “One consequence of the restrictions was the reduction in crime. Sadly, we are now seeing crime getting closer to the levels we saw in 2019. Police forces are busy tackling and preventing crime and providing a policing service to their communities, while continuing to play their part in the national effort to limit the spread of coronavirus.

“I am disgusted to see an increase in assaults on emergency service workers who are the frontline in protecting us all including from this deadly virus. We will use the full force of the law to prosecute anyone who uses violence against those who are on the front line.”

The NPCC reports what it terms a low officer and staff absence figure of 4.7 per cent across the UK. As for Covid-19-related offences, 18,683 notices have been recorded as having been issued under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations, England and Wales in England (16,021) and Wales (2,662) between Friday, March 27 and Monday, August 17.

In the last four weeks, 13 fines were issued by forces in England. No fines were issued in Wales under these regulations during this period. And 36 fines have been issued by police forces during localised restrictions, in line with regulations laid for each affected area. A mere 46 FPNs were issued between 15 June and 17 August for breaches of the Face Coverings Regulations. 38 of these fines were issued against the regulations concerning wearing a face covering on public transport. Further, eight of the fines were issued against the regulations concerning the wearing a face covering in a relevant place, such as in a shop.

Despite such tiny numbers, police are in urban areas having to respond to anti-social behaviour and illegal (under pandemic regulations) outdoor gatherings.


For Labour, Sarah Jones, Shadow Minister for Policing and Fire said: “These figures show an expected reduction in most offences during lockdown. However, it is concerning that violence recorded by the police is already returning to pre-lockdown levels. After a decade of cuts to police and preventative services, we need real action from the Government to tackle the issues that drive violence on our streets.”

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