How Was Crime Affected During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

July 4, 2022

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It’s safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic affected many aspects of the way we live and work. For just over a year, our lives were changed by coronavirus restrictions, whether that was national lockdowns or tiered restrictions.

It was a strange time and in a post-pandemic world, researchers are now reflecting on that period and assessing its impact on society. One of the particularly interesting areas is the impact that the pandemic had on crime.

Here at Churchill Support Services, tackling and preventing crime is our job. That’s why we take an interest in crime statistics. In the past, we examined the crime rates in London, Manchester and Scotland. In this blog, we’ll now be exploring how crime was impacted by the pandemic.

 

Crime Trends During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Overall, crime did decrease during the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout 2020, crime recorded by police in England and Wales fell by 8%. This was the biggest annual decrease in crime since 2010, despite variation when it comes to specific crime categories.

The crime rate fell particularly during the first national lockdown (March-June 2020). As coronavirus restrictions lifted from July to September, the crime rate did increase, only to fall again as a second national lockdown was imposed towards the end of 2020.

Despite the general crime rate falling during the pandemic, some crime categories saw a worrying increase. Let’s take a closer look at how the coronavirus restrictions affected the individual crime categories.

Criminal Damage

First up is criminal damage. Criminal damages occur when any person (without a lawful excuse) damages or destroys any property of someone else- whether it was intended or a result of reckless actions. During the first national lockdown, incidents of criminal damage fell substantially, probably due to the fact that restrictions were placed on how and when people could leave the house.

When compared with 2019, March-May 2020 showed a large decrease in incidents of criminal damage and arson. April, in particular, saw a significant fall in criminal damage- which decreased by 31% (equivalent to 13,902 fewer offences).

Robbery

Robbery is defined as an offence in which either force or the threat of force, is used before or during a theft or attempted theft. Robbery also covers things like muggings, which often occur opportunistically out on the streets.

In 2020, reports of robbery dropped significantly, most likely due to the fact that most people were stuck at home, giving robbers and muggers less opportunity to strike. Incidents of robberies fell by 20% in March, 57% in April and 47% in May – a significant decrease in comparison to the same periods in 2019.

Theft

The term theft encompasses a number of theft offences including all personal and household crimes where items are stolen, as well as domestic burglary, vehicle and bicycle theft and shoplifting. During 2020, there was a 26% fall in overall theft, including a 42% drop in personal thefts, a 29% decrease in shoplifting and a 24% fall in burglary.

The Office for National Statistics believes this can be attributed to the fact that non-essential retailers were closed for a good portion of the year, reducing the chance of shoplifting. Fewer people out and about would also reduce the chance of personal theft and burglaries.

Violent Crime

Violent crime covers a range of violent offences including minor assaults that cause no physical harm, grievous bodily harm, actual bodily harm and even murder. It can also include offences where threats of violence are made, even if there are no physical consequences.

During March-May 2020, violent crime did decrease. According to research by Cardiff University, the number of violence-related injuries in 2020 was 119,111 – 56,653 fewer than reported in 2019. Yet unlike other crime categories, the decrease in violent crime was much smaller during the period of lockdown. Violent crime fell by 2% in March, 10% in April and 4% in May.

Domestic Violence

Sadly, not all crime decreased during the pandemic. Domestic abuse increased during the lockdown, with victims being stuck at home with abusers and cut off from friends and family. Sandra Horley, chief executive of domestic violence charity Refuge, told the BBC that many perpetrators already use isolation “as a tool of control”- this of course was only made worse by lockdowns and restrictions.

According to Refuge, The National Domestic Abuse helpline saw a 25% increase in calls and online requests during the lockdown. Data from The Office for National Statistics show that there was a 7% increase in recorded domestic abuse offences between March-June 2020.

Public Order Offences

Public order offences cover a wide range of crimes such as rioting, affray, drunk and disorderly behaviour, as well as inciting racial or religious hatred and assaulting emergency workers. During the first national lockdown, public order offences fell by 9% as people spent increased time at home.

However, between April and May 2020, public order offences reached one of the highest monthly levels when compared with the previous months, increasing by 23% to 37,881. It is presumed that this increase can be put down to easing lockdown restrictions across England and Wales.

Drug Offences

Not all crime offences decreased during the pandemic. Drug offences increased significantly in 2020, especially in the first national lockdown. According to the Office for National Statistics, drug offences rose by 15% throughout 2020, and increased by 22% in April and 44% in May compared to the same period in 2019.

It is thought that this increase in recorded offences was due to a police crackdown in “crime hotspots” between April to June 2020. It was easier to track down drug deals when the mobility of these networks was restricted.

Fraud and Computer Misuse

Another crime category that increased during the pandemic was fraud and computer misuse. From June 2020-2021, incidents of fraud increased by 32%. According to the Office for National Statistics, this increase was largely driven by ‘consumer and retail fraud,’ as people increasingly turned to online shopping during the pandemic.

ONS also found that there was an 85% increase in computer misuse incidents, which involves ‘unauthorised access to personal information, including hacking’. This increase in computer misuse could be put down to increased online activity during periods of lockdown.

Crime is Back on the Rise

As COVID-19 restrictions lifted, crime level returned to pre-pandemic levels. That means you still need to consider hiring a processional security company. Crime can be costly, especially for businesses.

Professional security guards can help to keep your property free from crime. On-site security can help to minimise the risk of crimes such as theft and vandalism. Not every business will need an on-site security guard. Yet it is still worth considering security measures such as CCTV, key holding or an alarm response service.

 

Are You Looking for Reliable Security?

If you’re looking to hire professional security guards to protect your business, Churchill Support Services should be at the top of your list. With our SIA licensed guards and range of quality services, we can equip your business or organisation with a tailored security service that protects your people, property, and assets. Check out our range of services below:

 

Churchill Support Services is a leading cross-industry security provider, supplying reliable and effective security guard services to businesses and organisations across the UK.

To find out more about how Churchill Support Services can support your business and its operations, get in touch with us today.

Emily Macaulay

Head of Business Development

Emily is responsible for business growth and account development via new sales. She leads the Business Development teams through strategic goals and objectives in line with business targets and strategy. Emily is a friendly, approachable and a respected senior manager at Churchill who always strives to deliver service excellence.

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