In difficult times it is always uplifting to try and find a glimmer of hope and the possibility of a reduction in the crime rate – even a short lived one – could be such a glimmer. Although, at this early stage it remains prudent to be keep an open mind about the eventual long-term impact on crime numbers.
Across the country there are signs that social distancing is having a dramatic impact on reported crime. Backing up reports following the initial days of the lockdown, the latest update from the National Police Chief’s Association, on 15 April 20201, showed a 28% overall drop in the crime rate, and a 37% reduction in more serious crimes such as rape and burglary. These figures suggest that the early first estimates of a 20% drop in crime2 during the lockdown appear to be likely to be not only achieved, but surpassed.
However, this positive news is tempered by the impact the virus is having on police resources. Police forces across the UK are seeing significant absenteeism as staff are either self-isolating or suffering from Covid-19 at home. The Metropolitan Police Federation estimates that nearly 20% of the forces’ officers are off sick or self- isolating due to the virus3. Chief Superintendent Paul Griffiths of the Police Superintendents’ Association told the Home Affairs Select Committee in early April that up to 13% of officers were off sick due to the virus4. With reduced police numbers and the important policing job of maintaining social distancing a priority, perhaps staff absence will be an invitation for crime levels to grow?
While the pandemic is bringing good news about crimes committed away from home, the enforced lockdown is raising the stakes for crimes that take place behind closed doors. It’s predicted that levels of domestic violence in homes could rise throughout the quarantine period. During the first week of April 2020, The National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen as 25% upsurge in calls, while its website has seen anextraordinary 150% increase in visits5.
With families being confined to their homes, it will come as no surprise if we see the numbers of reported domestic crimes and those seeking help dramatically rise during the course of the pandemic. It is too early yet to say what the full impact of the pandemic and the lockdown will be on the numbers and categories of recorded crime. Careful monitoring of the statistical evidence and the eventual impact via court proceedings will be needed in the weeks and months ahead.
Published Date: 22nd April 2020
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2 https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/mar/26/coronavirus-crisis-leads-to-precipitous-drop-in-recorded3 3https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/police-staff-sick-self-isolating-coronavirus-a4396016.html