Fraudsters have scammed Britons out of £1.8million during the coronavirus outbreak and police have issued 3,500 fines related to the pandemic, it was revealed today.
But crime has reduced by more than a quarter during the period in the UK with assaults, robbery, rape, burglaries and shoplifting all significantly down.
Overall crime is down 28 per cent in the four weeks to Easter Sunday, while serious assaults and personal robbery have fallen 27 per cent and rape is down 37 per cent.
Burglary has fallen 37 per cent, vehicle crime is down 34 per cent and shoplifting has dropped 54 per cent – but there has been a 3 per cent rise in domestic abuse.
Thames Valley Police out on patrol in Oxford today as the UK continues in lockdown
Demand on victim support charities is also rising, and there has been a 59 per cent increase in anti-social behaviour – much of it related to social distancing breaches.
Calls to 999 are down by 14 per cent and there has been a 13 per cent drop in 101 calls, although there has been a 61 per cent increase in those reporting crime online.
Police said they have had to enforce 3,203 coronavirus-related fines for breaches of public health regulations in England between March 27 and Easter Monday. There were also 290 fines issued in Wales, although only on the bank holiday weekend.
Some 82 per cent of fines have been given to men and 15 per cent to women, with 3 per cent unknown. Two thirds of the fines have gone to those aged 18 to 34.
Sixty per cent of fines have been issued to those self-identifying as white, while a further 23 per cent of fines issued to individuals who did not identify their ethnicity.
Police said they have had to enforce 3,203 coronavirus-related fines for breaches of public health regulations in England between March 27 and Easter Monday. There were also 290 fines issued in Wales, although only on the bank holiday weekend
Fines to those of Asian ethnicity stood at 10 per cent, black at 4 per cent and mixed race at 2 per cent, which police said was proportionate in relation to ethnicity data.
How crime has mostly fallen during the UK’s coronavirus pandemic
- Overall crime: Down 28%
- Serious assaults and robbery: Down 27%
- Rape: Down 37%
- Burglary: Down 37%
- Vehicle crime: Down 34%
- Shoplifting: Down 54%
- Domestic abuse: Up 3%
- Anti-social behaviour: Up 59%
- 999 calls: Down 14%
- 101 calls: Down 13%
- Online reporting: Up 61%
The warm weather also appears to have had an effect, with fines much higher on Good Friday with 398 and Saturday with 424 when temperatures got to 25C (77F).
However by Easter Monday, when the mercury only got to 14.4C (57.9F), there were only 177 fines – suggesting people were more likely to stay indoors.
Some 39 fines have been issued to those aged between 16 and 17, but these have since all been rescinded. Some 26 fines have been issued to those aged over 65.
Meanwhile 10 per cent of police officers and force staff across the UK are absent because they are either ill with coronavirus or other conditions or self-isolating.
Deputy Chief Constable Sara Glen, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for out of court disposals, said there had been reports of 112,000 Covid-related incidents.
There have also been reports of 178,000 incidents of anti-social behaviour, and some 83 cases have gone into the court system straight away after people were arrested.
Mounted police officers speak to people on Primrose Hill in North London yesterday
National Police Chiefs Council chairman Martin Hewitt said: ‘With reductions in crime, policing is in a strong, resilient position due to the brilliant commitment of officers and staff and the extra hours of our police volunteers.
‘Our message to the public is keep reporting crime to us – we are still here for you and our teams are working round clock to keep you safe.
‘To those in danger or at risk, my message is we will come when you call for help.’
On domestic abuse, Mr Hewitt said: ‘We are very closely monitoring this, and we are continuing our work to ensure victims know how to get the help that they need.’
National Crime Agency director general Lynne Owens has also spoken about how coronavirus is changing the behaviour of organised criminals.
Two police motorcyclists make a sweep of Clapham Common in South London yesterday
She cited the example of a Polish van driver stopped last night near Calais, who had 200 face masks in his consignment – and 14kg of cocaine in one of the parcels.
She said the NCA’s cyber crime unit has taken down six domains, and a further three will come down shortly. They are also looking at 50 to 60 more suspect domains.
The NCA has carried out eight warrants against high risk child sexual abuse predators, including two involved in trans-national child abuse.
She added that criminals now known to be selling drugs in supermarket car parks and pretending they are key workers to avoid being stopped by police.
Anti-crime authorities added that there has also been a rise in the street price of cocaine because it is becoming harder to get hold of during the pandemic.
On March 26, the Government announced new public health regulations to reduce the spread of coronavirus, allowing officers to issue £60 fines to anyone failing to comply after officers had spoken to them and encouraged voluntary compliance.
On the enforcement on these regulations, Mr Hewitt said: ‘The vast majority of people are staying at home in order to protect the NHS and help save lives.
‘However, we have seen a small minority of people who, despite our best efforts, have refused to follow the instructions and officers have needed to use their enforcement powers.’