Coronavirus: Recorded crime in Scotland down by a quarter since lockdown

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Image caption,
Police Scotland said fewer crimes were being committed on the streets and in town and city centres

Recorded crime in Scotland has fallen by about 25% during the coronavirus lockdown, Police Scotland have said.

The number of serious assaults dropped by about 40% and house break-ins were down 30% compared with the same period last year.

However, "public nuisance" incidents - generally related to people reporting others for breaking lockdown rules - have more than doubled.

Police Scotland said they now accounted for about a fifth of all calls.

Fraud has also increased by more than 10% between 24 March and 19 April, according to the quarterly figures.

The force said there was some evidence that criminals were exploiting the coronavirus crisis to commit offences.

Noise incidents have also increased "significantly", which officers believe could be related to the increased amount of time people are spending at home.

There has been a "slight decrease" in domestic abuse incidents, but Police Scotland warned this might not reflect what was going on behind closed doors.

The UK's lockdown measures came into effect on 23 March, restricting people from leaving their homes unless they had a "reasonable excuse".

The measures were initially put in place for three weeks, but were extended for "at least" another three weeks on 16 April.

Police on patrol
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Lockdown crime

  • 25%overall reduction in recorded crime

  • 20%of all incidents now reports of lockdown rule-breaking

  • 40%fall in serious assaults

  • 30%fall in housebreaking

  • 10%rise in fraud

Source: Police Scotland

The Deputy Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Fiona Taylor, said the "significant" changes to life in the UK were having an effect "on the nature and level of demand on policing".

She also warned that the provisional figures covered a relatively short period and cautioned against making assumptions about longer term trends.

Ms Taylor said: "We are seeing, for example, a slight decrease in domestic abuse incidents but are acutely aware this may not reflect what is happening behind closed doors and we know that people don't always report abuse immediately.

"For some, this period of physical distancing and isolation may expose them to a greater risk of abuse, harm and neglect.

"We have been using our social media channels to highlight our concern and raise awareness in communities. We want people to feel safe and we want to prevent harm by identifying people who may be at risk, and putting in place measures that will help keep them safe."

The deputy chief constable went on to say that protecting children remained a priority for Police Scotland and there would be no change to the way officers responded to child protection issues.

Police Scotland's figures also suggest that breach of the peace has fallen by more than 50%, with possession of drugs down by about a fifth.

But the force believes it could be "months or years" before there is a clear picture on how the pandemic and subsequent social distancing measures had affected crime in Scotland.

The deputy chief constable added: "These early indications suggest that there are fewer crimes committed on the streets and in our town and city centres because the overwhelming majority of people are stepping forward to do their part to protect the NHS and save lives."

'Tough times'

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf welcomed the fall in crime and said he was pleased people were adhering to physical distancing requirements.

"However we must continue to seek to protect the public and reduce opportunities generated by the current Covid-19 outbreak that some will use to exploit members of the public," he added.

He said there was help available around the clock for people experiencing domestic abuse in their homes. Scotland's 24 hour domestic abuse helpline is on 0800 027 1234 and support is also available online.

"These are tough times for everyone and ensuring people and communities across Scotland are safe and resilient is vital," he said.

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