Sussex crime figures show striking impact of coronavirus pandemic

The latest crime statistics for Sussex show the striking impact of the first seven months of the pandemic.

Crime is often seen as a reflection of society and, for much of the 12 months between September 2019 and September 2020, Sussex was under some form of social restriction.

The county has significantly lower crime rates than the national average.

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According to the Office for National Statistics, based on Home Office figures, Sussex reported 70 crimes per 1,000 people over that time period.

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The figure for England was 82.8 per 1,000, although both of these figures do not include fraud cases, which have seen a significant increase during the pandemic.

That being said, crime is falling faster in the country at large than in Sussex.

Crime dropped in England by six per cent up to September, 2020, whereas it only dipped by two per cent in Sussex.

That decline in our county was driven by huge reductions in some crimes, particularly those that require the physical interaction that has been curtailed by the pandemic.

Burglary fell by 16 per cent, theft from the person by 31 per cent and bicycle theft by 17.

Shoplifting fell by seven per cent – not surprising considering shops were closed for around three months of lockdown.

Vehicle offences also fell by 31 per cent, as people’s cars remained predominantly at their homes.

As these figures only show up to September, it is likely the trends will have become more pronounced by now as the impact of the November and current lockdowns are felt. Those trends also brought some concerning increases in crime.

The pandemic has been credited with creating a ‘cyber paradise’ for criminals, who are becoming more tech-savvy and have an abundance of spare time on their hands.

Reports of stalking and harassment rose by 28 per cent up to September, 2020, and fraud rose by eight per cent – although that figure is expected to be higher at this point after a recent surge.

The number of drug offences also increased by 16 per cent.

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Jayne Dando said: “Though total crime volumes have fallen with the unique circumstances of 2020, new demand has arisen generated by changes in public behaviour and expectations.

Officers and staff have been quick to adapt to new ways of working, providing valuable work every day to help keep communities safe, catch criminals and deliver an outstanding service

“We have introduced new specialist crime teams over the last 10 months, including the Rural Crime Team and the recently launched Specialist Enforcement Unit which will be tacking and catching dangerous and wanted criminals using the Sussex roads network.

“The recent crime statistics released, which includes the data up until September 2020, shows a 27.5 per cent increase in stalking and harassment incidents, with 40 per cent of these being recorded as malicious communications. Most stalking cases will have an online or cyber element and we provide our officers and staff bespoke training to provide on-line safety advice and guidance. This information is readily available to them on the front line through work apps that allow for easy access and links through to the most appropriate partners.

In Sussex we are already recording the second highest number of stalking reports anywhere in the UK outside London, which is a consequence of the extensive work that the force has done to raise awareness of the impact of this offence, and to ensure that officers and staff are adept at identifying and tackling it. We are now advising and supporting more victims than ever.

“With better awareness and enhanced training our approach is more robust in ensuring people feel and are being kept safe. We encourage victims to come forward with the knowledge that our officers and staff are better trained and that they take all reports seriously.

“We have also adapted our services for domestic abuse victims to ensure, despite living through a pandemic, we can provide the relevant support.”