Violence, murder and drug crime has risen despite lockdown, official figures reveal

Charles Hymas
·3 min read
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TELEMMGLPICT000235340133.jpeg

Violence, murders and drug crimes increased last year despite a slump in overall crime during the covid lockdown, official figures show.  

Crimes of violence against people rose by three per cent from 1,697,718 offences to 1,750,750 in the year ending June 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).  

Homicides rose by nine per cent from 668 to 725 homicides in the same year, although this included the 39 Vietnamese who died at the hands of people smugglers in a lorry in Grays, Essex.

Even without this, however, killings still rose by three per cent.   The biggest rise was for drug offences which rose by 21 per cent year on year - and by 30 per cent during lockdown from 44,064 in April to June 2019 to 57,132 during the same period this year.  

Police chiefs attributed it to a combination of a blitz on drug dealers during the height of the covid restrictions as the decline in other crimes freed up officers and the empty streets that made it harder for the criminals to operate.  

The rise was particularly evident in London where there was a 43 rise in drug offences as the number of stop and searches in the capital nearly doubled from 24,000 in April to 44,000 in May.   

One police chief described it as like “shooting fish in a barrel,” while Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said: "People who aren't going out are asking for the drugs to come to them. That's putting the drug dealers more at risk and making them more obvious.”  

Overall, the total number of crimes recorded by police in England and Wales fell by four per cent to around 5.8 million in the year to June, largely due to the sharp decline in offences during lockdown.  

Theft offences fell by 15 per cent in the year ending June 2020. There were also decreases in robbery offences (10 per cent down), sexual offences (seven per cent down) and criminal damage and arson (eight per cent down).  

Lockdown from April to June saw overall crime fall by 19 per cent to 1,242,194 offences from 1,533,776 in the same quarter last year.  

Theft fell by 43 per cent to 280,087, while robbery offences decreased by 47 per cent to  11,961.  Sexual offences fell by 24 per cent in April to June 2020  to 31,997 offences while criminal damage and arson was down by 23 per cent to 108,604 offences   

The ONS said: "Police-reported crime levels were relatively stable from July 2019 to March 2020 and the annual decrease was mainly driven by substantial falls during the April to June 2020 period, particularly in theft offences."  

Billy Gazard, from the ONS centre for crime and justice, said the drop in crime levels were "mainly driven by changes in society after coronavirus lockdown restrictions were put in place."  

He added: "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."  

But he said police recording of drug offences "increased sharply throughout the April to June period, reflecting proactive police activity as overall crime levels reduced".   Anti-social behaviour also rose, he said, adding that this included reported breaches of lockdown restrictions to police