'Coronavirus could lead to crime wave once restrictions lifted', police chief warns

20 April 2020, 12:32

Police officers talk with a couple resting on Primrose Hill in London
Police officers talk with a couple resting on Primrose Hill in London. Picture: Getty

By Matt Drake

A police chief has warned about a potential crime wave once Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased.

Police should be ready to deal with a "more volatile and agitated society" after the UK's coronavirus lockdown measures are eased, according to Chief Superintendent Paul Griffiths.

The president of the Police Superintendents' Association said that economic difficulties can lead to a "rise in crime and disorder".

He added: "There are going to be people who are out of work, businesses that have not been able to sustain themselves, and the impact on society will start to come through."

Crime levels in England and Wales have fallen by more than a quarter during the pandemic, with a 28 per cent decrease in the four weeks to April 12 compared to the same period last year.

During the four weeks, there has been a 37 per cent reduction in police recorded burglary, a 27 per cent drop in vehicle crime, serious assault and personal robbery while recorded rape offences have fallen 37 per cent.

Fears have been raised of an increase in domestic violence amid enforced isolation at home, and police have seen an increase of 3 per cent in recorded offences year on year.

There has also been a 59 per cent rise in reports of anti-social behaviour, being attributed to breaches of coronavirus lockdown rules.

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Mr Griffiths told the Independent: "With all this suppression at some point it will be released.

"My worry is that there will be a whole load of societal impacts from what we have gone through over those months.

"Those consequences could be a more volatile and agitated society.

"The suppression at the moment is clearly done for the right reasons to stop the spread of the disease, but there may be impacts for individual mental health and what then will that mean?

"We've got to try and think through the consequences of these actions, and what are the unintended consequences."