Murders rise despite coronavirus causing huge drop in crime across England and Wales

Lizzie Dearden
·2 min read
 (Independent)
(Independent)

Murders have risen in England and Wales despite a huge drop in overall crime caused by the coronavirus lockdown.

Homicides rose by 3 per cent to 686 in the year to June, which saw an increase in fatal stabbings in London.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that if the migrants who died in a lorry container are included, the increase is 9 per cent.

“The figures include a 5 per cent increase (to 128) recorded by the Metropolitan Police Service in the latest year,” said a report.

“The number of homicides involving the use of a knife or sharp instrument in London increased from 69 to 79, a 14 per cent increase.”

Overall crime dropped by 4 per cent in England and Wales in the year, plummeting by 19 per cent between April and June compared to the previous year.

The ONS said offences had been relatively stable until the coronavirus pandemic sparked a UK-wide lockdown in late March.

Figures show sharp falls during the tightest period of restrictions, and then gradual increases as they were eased.

In April, recorded crime was down 26 per cent on the previous year and the drop was 20 per cent in May and 10 per cent in June.

Billy Gazard, from the ONS Centre for Crime and Justice, said: “Decreases in crime levels during the year ending June 2020 were mainly driven by changes in society after coronavirus lockdown restrictions were put in place.

“The most substantial reductions were seen in theft and robbery offences during the April to June quarter. There are indications that crime levels in June were moving back towards pre-lockdown levels.”

Police leaders have said that crime later returned to normal rates, forcing them to choose whether to prioritise officers responding to reported incidents or enforcing increasingly complex coronavirus laws.

Major reductions were seen in theft and robbery between April and June, at almost half 2019 levels, as well as knife and gun crime, which was down around a quarter.

The number of drug offences rose dramatically by 30 per cent during lockdown, but the ONS said it reflected “proactive police activity”.

Several major forces seized on the lull in other forms of crime to launch crackdowns on gangs and drugs in the period, and organised criminal groups were targeted nationwide after an encrypted phone network was compromised.

Reports of anti-social behaviour to police rocketed by almost half during lockdown, but the ONS said the figures reflected “the reporting of breaches to lockdown restrictions”, which are recorded in that category.

A survey found that half of adults said they had consistently noticed others breaching virus restrictions in their local area, but only 7 per cent reported them to the police - mainly because they thought it was “too trivial”.