The crime figures for the first four months of 2020 paint a very different picture when compared to the same period the year before, and even across the four months there is a significant decrease in nearly all types of crime. In January there were 2,328 burglaries, but in April just 1,372 were reported – a drop of nearly 1,000 incidents. This is clearly related to the amount of people who are staying and working at home, therefore, making their properties an unattractive target for would-be burglars. In April 2019 there were 2,161 burglaries, demonstrating a clear link between home occupancy and burglaries. If more people continue working from home to avoid commuting and overcrowding in offices, we can expect that drop in burglaries to continue for some time.
Vehicle theft rates followed a similar pattern, with 3,014 reported in January compared to just 1,667 in April 2020. This is directly attributable to the fact that people are not going out as much, or for as long a time, which reduces the chances of a car thief coming across your vehicle while you’re out and about. Some car thefts are perpetrated on the street or a driveway, and these planned thefts are largely unaffected by the change in behaviour during the pandemic because they don’t rely on your vehicle being in an unsecured location.
Bike theft rates have not seen much change during the first four months of the year, with 151 reported in January and 150 in April. More people are using their bikes for transport and for exercise, so the number of bicycles out there has actually increased slightly, leading to a higher supply and demand for bikes. It is worth noting that the number of recorded bike thefts in April 2019 was 231, so there have been fewer bike thefts in April this year by comparison.
Theft from the person (i.e. muggings or pick-pocketing) has seen a significant decline over the first four months of the year, with 256 in January and just 95 in April. Rates rose slightly in February (280), then returned to 245 in March, but as the lock-down was introduced at the end of March there was still plenty of time for thieves to act. It’s significant that the social distancing rules, the general fear of getting too close to people and the tendency to avoid crowds for the same reason, has seen this type of crime drop off. Compared to April 2019, when there were 238 thefts from the person we can see that this type of crime is directly influenced by the lock-down.
Finally, it is no surprise that shoplifting has decreased between January and April. 1,297 incidents of shoplifting were reported in January, but by April this had dropped to 642. By comparison, April 2019 saw 1,491 reports of shoplifting, so it’s a reasonable conclusion that the lock-down and consumer behaviour in shops has had a significant impact on shoplifting. With fewer people in shops at any one time and increased staff presence, it is a lot harder to shoplift; also because most shops selling commonly stolen items like clothing, fragrances and electronics have been closed, there is less opportunity to steal from retail stores. It is likely that this figure will go back up when shoppers return in significant numbers to the high street because it may actually be easier to shoplift when security guards won’t want to get too close to customers and they may be apprehensive about asking to see inside a customer’s bag and/or touching the items inside to check they have been paid for. On the other side of that argument, it will be harder to hide suspect behaviour in an emptier store, so we may see a conservative increase in shoplifting over the summer months.
We hope the drop in crime rates continues, and that we won’t see a huge spike in crime when life gets back to normal, but we could be many months away from that. In the meantime, we should remain vigilant so we don’t develop bad security habits.