Impact of COVID on Crime
Spring lockdown led to a huge drop in total crime but more Drug and Anti-Social offences.
The first national lockdown (March-May) resulted in many interesting changes in criminal activity. Using Doordastats we can take a deeper look into how the lockdown effected the amount and type of crimes being reported.
Some of the most noticeable trends include a drop in burglaries (-40%) and shoplifting (-56%) when comparing April 2020 to April 2019. The same is true for violence and sexual offences, vehicle crime, theft from the person, robbery as well as criminal damage and arson. This is not a surprise as people staying at home and shops closing made it much more difficult to commit certain crimes.
At first glance, it seems the lockdown had a positive impact on the amount of crime committed. However, comparing to the previous year does not give the full story. When looking at the previous 4 years of violence and sexual crimes, a drop of this magnitude does not stand out significantly. It could even be viewed as standard deviation and hence not related to the lockdown. There was also a 35% increase in these types of crimes coming out of lockdown. This surge is most likely related to a lag in the reporting of domestic abuse cases during the lockdown.
Interestingly, anti-social behaviour (+73%) and drug-related crime (+25%) saw a steep increase during the same timeframe. Antisocial behaviour surged due to higher numbers of reports of people breaking lockdown restrictions. The increase in drug-related crime is likely caused by a number of factors including an increase in recreational drug use due to stress and lack of access to support services.
When looking at the last 3 years there is a steady upward trend in drug-related crime. The surge in cases during lockdown should therefore be taken with a pinch of salt. The upward trend may be due to increased police investigations in these areas and a crackdown on county line drug networks.
In summary, this data shows many interesting trends but some caution should be used when giving credit to the lockdown. Many other aspects affect the level of reported crime such as the way police categorise crimes, ever-changing government guidelines and the willingness of people to report crimes. This is a reminder that data can tell multiple stories and a responsible analysis is needed to show the full picture.
We will update our analysis as we exit Lockdown2 to see if there is any further correlation with social restrictions and the overall reported crime trends.
- All visuals exclude Greater Manchester Police as they have not released data since June 2019.
- Figures may differ from those reported by the office of national statistics (ONS). This is due to varying methods of analysis and timeframes used.
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