Shoplifting crimes dropped by 41 per cent in Cumbria during lockdown, while assaults on emergency workers rose by 40 per cent from March to September, latest data from police has revealed.
Overall crime reduced by 13.9 per cent and incident numbers are down by five per cent compared to the same period in 2019, Cumbria’s police and crime commissioner Peter McCall was told at a meeting.
However, these reductions were said to mask the type of demand police have faced in recent months, which had included seven of the busiest days for recorded incidents in the past three-and-a-half years.
Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Slattery said: “Our officers and staff have had to adapt to the challenges they faced in helping to limit the spread of coronavirus.
“During the first wave, demand for policing services reduced which enabled us to concentrate on our role in COVID-19 response.
“Between March and September, we dealt with 4,627 COVID-related incidents, equating to 9 per cent of our total number of incidents. At its peak during May, this accounted for 29 per cent of all incidents.
“Many of the COVID-related incidents have been categorised as antisocial behaviour which led to the apparent increase of 43 per cent. Due to restrictions on international travel, Cumbria experienced higher numbers of first-time visitors, which had some unforeseen consequences.
“A significant increase in informal camping led to widespread issues of antisocial behaviour and criminal damage, which was addressed through effective multi-agency response.”
Compared with the same period in 2019, domestic abuse and child exploitation incidents increased despite an initial fall at the start of the pandemic.
Mr Slattery added: “The pandemic has had a significant impact on vulnerability, with domestic abuse incidents increasing by five per cent to 2,656 reports and child exploitation reports rising to 341 incidents — which is a 39 per cent increase on the previous year.
“We recognised the potential for enforced lockdown to adversely impact the lives of vulnerable people and have been very proactive in encouraging victims to report any abuse that they have suffered during the pandemic.”
The police also noted a rise in incidents involving those suffering from mental illness. There were over 50 apparent suicides between March and September, which is a 39 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2019.
“The constabulary is working closely with partner agencies through the Cumbria Suicide Prevention Leadership Group, which aims to raise awareness of support services available to those experiencing mental health issues,” said Mr Slattery.
Mr McCall said: “COVID-19 has challenged all emergency services and other public sectors across the country, but Cumbria Constabulary have really risen to the occasion and successfully served and protected the public while putting their own health at risk.
“We are well-served here in the county and our police deserve recognition for all their hard work which I know will continue as they deal with the pandemic as the winter months approach.”