Police praise public for lockdown response as figures reveal huge fall in crime

Police have praised the public response to lockdown earlier this year, after official figures revealed a huge drop in the number of crimes committed.

Police have reacted to the latest crime figures which show a huge fall in offences during lockdown
Police have reacted to the latest crime figures which show a huge fall in offences during lockdown

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed major falls in nearly all types of crime in the county between April and June – part of the national lockdown from March to June 23.

For West Mercia there was an overall fall of 19 per cent, including a drop of six per cent in violence.

There were however increases in drug use, the theft of bicycles, and stalking and harassment – a trend reflected across the country.

West Mercia Police Force Superintendent James Baker, said the drop in overall crime had been expected, and the lockdown had allowed officers to focus on organised crime and drug networks.

That focus on drug networks is the likely reason for what appears to be an increase in drug offences, with police catching more people for the crime, which in turn shows as though the type of offending has risen.

He said: "A reduction in crime is of course positive. 2020 has seen significant changes to our daily lives, and with the lockdown restrictions we expected to see a reduction in some crime types, which is good news.

"However, it is important to acknowledge that some crime may have gone unreported and I encourage anyone who has been the victim of a crime or abuse to be reassured that the police and our partners are available to help and support you, so please get in touch.

“With the lockdown restrictions and the literal decrease in movement over the spring and summer, we made sure we utilised our resource as effectively as possible, not only in dealing with new legislation and Covid policing requirements, and we were extremely pleased to see that the majority of the communities behaved responsibly, but also in proactively targeting criminals – particularly organised crime and drug networks who exploit the most vulnerable in society.

"As a result, some recorded crime will have gone up in some cases as a result of this proactive work.”

Supt Baker said that the year-on-year increase in violent crime – seven per cent – could also be misleading due to the way the statistics are combined.

He said: “Violence against the person has increased in comparison to the previous year, but it’s important that our communities understand the facts that sit behind the numbers; statistics alone can be misleading and alarming, and don’t necessarily always reflect the true picture.

‘Violence Against the Person’ (VAP), includes verbal abuse in addition to physical violence, and it (violence without injury) makes up a large proportion of our recorded crime within this category. Only one per cent of the increase in West Mercia relates to violence with injury."

The figures also showed an increase in knife crime across the force area, but Supt Baker said the offence remains relatively low compared to other areas of the country, and that the number of people injured in violent offences in Shropshire has fallen.

He said: “We acknowledge that knife crime has increased within West Mercia as a whole since last year, which is reflected nationally. However, people should be reassured that the figures for Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire are comparatively very low in relation to other areas of the country; and year to date (April 2020 – October 2020) reports of violence with injury have reduced by 17 per cent in Shropshire.

"This doesn’t mean we are complacent and we are working very hard to both reduce and prevent violence.

“Knife crime relates to both street violence and crimes within a domestic setting, and we are working proactively to tackle both of these very different but equally distressing crime types."

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