Impact of Covid-19 pandemic on crime revealed

Suffolk police said it cannot yet say how Covid rules will be policed at Christmas. Stock picture. P

Officers from Suffolk Constabulary's proactive Kestrel team on patrol during the Covid-19 pandemic - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Figures have revealed the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on crime during the 12 months before the lifting of all restrictions.

Police conceded that a fall in overall crime was heavily influenced by the pandemic – but hoped the reduction would still provide reassurance to the public.

Overall crime fell 11% to 49,180 offences across Suffolk in the year ending June 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

As more people stayed at home, crimes like robbery and burglary fell significantly – with robbery down 45% to 128 offences in Ipswich.

Only stalking and harassment offences showed a spike in the opposite direction – with cases rising 15% to 6,696 in line with trend reflected around the country due to changes in the law.

Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Kearton said she was pleased by the comparative performance of the constabulary, which ranked in the top 10 for declines in burglary and robbery, against the "incredibly testing environment" of a pandemic.

Assistant chief constable Rachel Kearton Picture: GREGG BROWN

Deputy Chief Constable of Suffolk Constabulary, Rachel Kearton - Credit: Gregg Brown

She said: "The real encouragement is that our comparison with other forces is very good, bearing in mind everybody has been affected by the influences of Covid.

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"Obviously, people spent more time in their homes, but our officers were able to carry out more preventative work, and we've had investment in proactive teams, so it provided an opportunity for us to become even more integrated into communities.  

"There's an understandable fear of crime, which can be influenced by national and international stories, but I think these statistics recognise that Suffolk is a very safe place to live and work."

In Essex, overall crime fell 4% to 154,019 offences, with Colchester seeing the biggest drop (8% to 16,685).

Burglary fell by almost a third to 6,340 offences, while robbery dropped 9% to 1,307.

Sexual offences saw a 13% rise to 5,427 offences – with the biggest increase in Tendring (up 34% to 548). 

The ONS said periods of national lockdown saw decreases in many types of crime, followed by a return towards previous incidence levels as lockdowns ended.

Total police recorded crime fell 3% in England and Wales in the same period.

The number of sex offences reached its highest ever quarterly level between April and June – but the ONS said recent figures may reflect a number of factors, including the impact of high-profile cases and campaigns on victims’ willingness to report incidents.

An Essex Police spokesman said the figures show that the county remained a safe place to live, work and study, with almost 7,000 fewer reports of crime, fewer people being injured following assaults, fewer robberies, burglaries and reports of vehicle crime.

"Our Disruptor and Operation Raptor teams are also working to identify, disrupt, and arrest drug dealers," they added.

"In the first six months of this year, our Op Raptor teams carried out 104 warrants, made 272 arrests, seized more than £200,000 in cash, and recovered 27 weapons.

"And so far this year we’ve closed down more than 80 county lines across the county.

"We’ve embedded the government’s new Victim’s Code into our practices to ensure victims are at the heart of everything we do and that provide them the best support and service we possibly can.

"Our Victim Feedback Panels ensure we learn from where things work and where we can do better.

"As part of our continual investment we have introduced new specialist teams such as the Domestic Abuse Problem Solving Team (DAPST).

"The team focuses on medium to high-risk victims, and have an enforcement arm with officers dedicated to searching for outstanding offenders, and ensuring that the terms of protection and prevention orders are being complied with.

"We have seen a rise in sexual offences. We have specialist detectives who investigate these offences and support victims.

"We’re also utilising new measures to better protect victims, but by allowing evidence of vulnerable victims or witnesses to be pre-recorded at an early stage, before trial.

"And we’re working with partners to ensure victims can get specialist support within one working day of reporting an offence to us."