Police Federation

Crime figures offer false sense of security

26 August 2020

The Police Federation of England and Wales has issued a warning that the public must not be lulled into a false sense of security by the huge reduction in the rate of recorded crime during the lockdown period.

PFEW National Vice Chair Ché Donald

PFEW National Vice Chair Ché Donald

Figures released today by the Office for National Statistics revealed there had been a 32 per cent reduction in total crime, excluding fraud and computer misuse, during April and May 2020 - compared with a two-month average in the pre-lockdown period.

Reacting to the news PFEW National Vice-Chair Ché Donald said: “Overall the figures appear very positive, but we must take into account businesses were shut and members of the public were largely at home for a lengthy period during lockdown. As such, shoplifting offences and other acquisitive crimes were reduced as a result, so it is only common-sense that crime is down.

“We must not be lulled into a false sense of security, as the figures will inevitably rise again. The answer to this is that we still need more officers on the streets in order to drive crime down in the longer term and to keep the public safe. The much-promised government uplift of police officers will assist with this, but it is yet to be felt by my colleagues and the public.”

Mr Donald was highly encouraged by the finding that 91 per cent of adults who responded to the Telephone-operated Crime Survey for England and Wales (TCSEW) were satisfied with their local police officers. 

He added: “We have all read the recent negative media perceptions of policing, so this overwhelming vote of confidence from the public will be appreciated by our members. This reflects the amazing work done by policing during the pandemic and the respect in which they are clearly held by the majority of the public.”

Key findings were:

  • Significant 32 per cent reduction in total crime, excluding fraud and computer misuse, during April and May 2020 compared with a two-month average in the pre-lockdown period
  • Underlying this reduction were significant falls in theft offences, particularly domestic burglary and other theft of personal property; this reflected the increase in time people spent at home during the lockdown period, a reduction in opportunities for theft in public spaces and the closure of the night-time economy
  • Police recorded crime levels during the lockdown period were much lower than respective months in 2019, with 25 per cent less crime in April 2020 and 20 per cent less crime in May 2020
  • Reductions were seen across many types of crime; in particular, theft offences fell in April and May 2020 to almost half the level recorded in April and May 2019
  • One exception related to trends in drug offences, where levels rose by 22 per cent in April 2020 and 44 per cent in May 2020 compared with April and May 2019. This reflects proactive police activity in pursuing these crimes during lockdown
  • Police recorded crime fell by 5 per cent in March 2020 compared with the previous month, followed by a larger 20 per cent decrease between March and April; in contrast, crime increased by 12 per cent from April to May, as the easing of lockdown restrictions began
  • Other findings from the TCSEW indicated public perceptions of the police during this time were largely positive, with 91 per cent of adults satisfied with the way local police were responding
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