Crime down more than 15% in Suffolk and Essex during lockdown
- Credit: Archant
Crime fell by more than 15% across Suffolk and Essex in the three months after the country was put into lockdown, official figures have shown.
Between April and end of June, overall crime plummeted by 16% to a total of 11,711 offences in Suffolk and 17% to 35,754 offences in Essex – against a 20% average fall across England and Wales.
In the previous 12 months, overall crime had continued rising across both counties – by 4% in Suffolk and 6% in Essex.
But latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed falls across almost every type of recorded crime as people spent more time at home.
With non-essential retailers forced to close, shoplifting fell 66% to just 363 offences in Suffolk and 56% to 1,242 in Essex, while a reduction in opportunities for theft in public spaces saw reports of stolen bicycles fall 45% to 159 in Suffolk and non-residential burglary drop 49% to 436 in Essex.
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However, both counties saw increases in drug offences (up a quarter to 540 in Suffolk and almost two thirds to 2,322 in Essex), stalking and harassment (up 30% in Suffolk to 1,637 and 7% in Essex to 6,140), and in public order (up 7% to 1,358 in Suffolk and 2% in Essex to 4,054).
The ONS said an overall fall was mainly driven by changes in society after restrictions were put in place – but that there were indications of numbers returning to pre-lockdown levels in June.
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Police said the rise in stalking and harassment reflects a long-term trend driven by a change in Home Office counting rules to ensure best practice in using legislation to deal with crimes properly and protect victims.
Meanwhile, increased police activity was reflected by rises in recorded drug offences and incidents of anti-social behaviour, which included reported breaches of lockdown restrictions.
Assistant Chief Constable of Suffolk police, Rob Jones said: “The increase around drug offences has been going on for some time and mainly comes from our use of stop-and-search.
“We then took a real opportunity, where demand fell, to do two things; arrest as many outstanding offenders as we could, and to be really proactive, engage with the community and use stop-and-search in keeping people safe.
“Our Sentinel teams (launched to disrupt criminals using the road network) have also added a strong dimension to countering harm caused by drugs.”
Mr Jones said the rise in public order offences was down to police using not just public health legislation but all aspects of legal powers during lockdown – for example, when required to crack down on large private gatherings.
He said overall crime had returned to levels similar to those seen before lockdown, and that some crimes were potentially greater in number than figures suggest, due to under-reporting, such as domestic violence.
“Lockdown underlined the primary role of the police to prevent crime and keep people safe,” he said.
“Where there are opportunities, we adapt our methods and address areas that are really important to the public at that time.”
An Essex Police spokesman said: “Overall crime in the year to the end of June 2020 fell, and there are fewer people in Essex who are victims of violence with injury offences, robbery, burglary and theft than the average across England and Wales.
“In this time, we saw more than 2,700 fewer burglaries and more than 1,000 fewer vehicles stolen.
“The number of robberies also continues to fall, meaning you’re almost 50% less likely to be a victim in Essex than the rest of the country. All this shows that your stuff is safer in Essex.
“And we continue to invest to support victims, protect vulnerable people, tackle violence, and increase visibility in your communities.
“Our town centre teams have been really effective in tackling crimes on your doorstep, while our rural engagement team is keeping rural communities safe.
“Our officers continue to carry out positive, proactive work to take drugs and weapons off our streets, which is reflected in the number of drugs offences we’ve recorded.
“The work of our Operation Raptor teams in leading the activity to tackle gangs and county line drug activity continues to see success.
“We’ve also improved our processes for identifying and recording crimes involving the use of knives or sharp instruments. By being able to record offences more accurately we get a better picture of the issues we need to tackle the most, as well as providing a better service to victim.”