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Update on crime trends and penalty notices issued under Covid Regulations

28 Jan 2021

Provisional data from police forces in England and Wales shows police recorded crime is thirteen per cent lower than in the same period as 2019. Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) given to the public for breaches of Coronavirus Regulations rose as national restrictions were implemented in England.

Preliminary figures released today on police recorded crime provided to the National Police Chiefs’ Council from forces in England and Wales show an overall fall of thirteen per cent in the four weeks to 20 December 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.

Throughout the pandemic, sustained falls in crime have been recorded throughout periods of national lockdown, with crime only rising close to 2019 levels during the summer months. The falling trend following November’s national restrictions has continued throughout the periods covered by the Alert Level Tiers in England.

Particularly in the period just before Christmas and New Year, most of England and Wales were covered by continued restrictive measures based on the spread of the virus across Wales and English counties. Individuals were also more likely to stay home and isolate due to the prospect of household mixing being allowed for Christmas Day, allowing criminals less opportunities to commit crime.

It is expected that the crime rate will continue to fall for January as England entered a third national lockdown.

For the most recent recorded snapshot, for the four weeks to 20 December, serious violent crime, including Grievous Bodily Harm, Actual Bodily Harm and personal robbery reduced by 26 per cent, shoplifting was down 29 per cent, vehicle crime fell by 27 per cent and residential burglary was down by 28 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Chair, Martin Hewitt said:

“We have seen falls in crime during periods of national lockdown and we are beginning to see it again in January. There was no significant rise back towards 2019 levels observed in December. Many parts of England and Wales still faced significant restrictions in the run up to Christmas and New Year.

“Police will always strive to make the most effective use of any additional capacity when crime falls.”

Speaking about the continued rise of assaults against emergency service workers reported within this snapshot, at four per cent higher than in 2019, Mr Hewitt added:

“Assaults on emergency workers who do crucial work to keep the public safe are deplorable. We’ve been firm from the outset, together with the Director for Public Prosecutions, that we will do all we can to prosecute those who commit these criminal offences.”

Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) issued by territorial forces in England and Wales

In total, 42,675 FPNs have been recorded as having been issued in England and Wales under Coronavirus Regulations between Friday 27 March and Sunday 17 January. In England 38,452, were issued, and 4,223 in Wales.

80 per cent of all Coronavirus notices issued in England and Wales were given to those aged between 18-39.

For this period, the breakdown is as follows:

Localised restrictions

  • Figures show that 2,904 FPNs were processed by the ACRO Criminal Records Office (ACRO) under the first Alert Levels tiers in England, with 506 given for Tier 1 (Medium), 1,701 for Tier 2 (High), and 697 for Tier 3 (Very High).
  • 6,869 notices have been processed by ACRO under the Coronavirus No.4 Regulations. These Regulations cover the English national lockdown which commenced on 5 November.
  • 504 notices have been processed by ACRO under the Coronavirus No.5 (Wales) Regulations, covering restrictions in Wales since 21 December.
  • 10,811 notices have been processed under the new All Tier Regulations since December 2 2020. 12 were issued for Tier 1 (Medium), 936 for Tier 2 (High), 3,103 for Tier 3 (Very High).
  • 6,760 notices were issued for Tier 4 (Extremely High). Tier 4 covers the short period before the imposition of National Lockdown in England across various counties, with this regulation then amended for the national lockdown in January 2021.

Large Gatherings

  • 250 FPNs have been issued relating to holding a gathering of more than thirty people in England, and two in Wales.
  • These include but are not limited to unlicensed music events, protests and private parties, and carry a £10,000 penalty.

Face Coverings

  • 1,319 FPNs were issued between 15 June and 17 January for breaches of the Face Coverings Regulations in England. 
  • 251 of these fines were issued against the regulations concerning wearing a face covering on public transport, across twelve forces (including British Transport Police in England and Wales).
  • 1,068 fines were issued against regulations concerning the wearing a face covering in a relevant place, such as a retail setting, across thirty-two forces (including British Transport Police in England and Wales).

Regulations relating to businesses

As of 18 September 2020, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Obligations of Undertakings) (England) Regulations 2020 came into effect.

On the 24th September 2020, the following regulations also came into effect for businesses: The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Collection of Contact Details etc and Related Requirements) Regulations 2020. Businesses are also affected by parts of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All tiers) (England) Regulations 2020.

  • 407 FPNs were issued across twenty-nine forces in England.
  • The main reasons for the issuance of an FPN included: Businesses not enforcing face covering regulations; businesses refusing to close during the emergency period or refusing to close during restricted hours, gatherings of more than the restricted number taking place within a business; businesses not adhering to the table service only rules.

International Travel Regulations

  • Up to 17 January, 332 FPNs were issued by police forces in England to those failing to self-isolate after arriving from a country on the UK Government Quarantine list. Three were issued in Wales.

Up to 20 December:

  • 8,655 cases investigated by officers found an individual to be complying with the regulations, with no further action being necessary.
  • 511 cases found a person to be in breach of the regulation, but no further action was necessary as they were successfully encouraged to self-isolate using the 4-Es approach.
  • 785 cases saw officers attend an address only to find that nobody with the relevant name lived at that address so no further enforcement action could be taken.
  • 1,052 cases resulted in no answer at all when officers attended an address, with no further enforcement action possible.

Martin Hewitt said:

“We are doing what we said we would, moving more quickly to enforcement where there are clear breaches of the rules. This seriously dangerous stage of the virus and national lockdown have led to more proactive patrols by forces and more FPNs have been issued as a result.

“We know most people are doing their best to follow the rules, however there is a stubborn minority who are not taking personal responsibility and continue to put people at risk.

“The most effective way to reduce the virus spreading and to avoid getting a fine, is for people to comply with the regulations and to stay home unless they have an exemption which applies to them.”

Crime trends data pack (Ending 20 December 2020) 

FPN data pack (Ending 17 January 2020)

Notes to Editors: 

Crime trends data:
Previous reporting showed:

  • a 28 per cent reduction in recorded crime for the four weeks to 12 April compared to 2019;
  • a 25 per cent fall for the four weeks to 10 May;
  • an 18 per cent fall for the four weeks to 7 June;
  • a 12 percent fall for the four weeks to 5 July;
  • a 7 per cent fall in recorded crime for the four weeks to 2 August;
  • a 3 per cent fall in the four weeks to 30 August;
  • a 6 per cent fall in the four weeks to 27 September;
  • a 9 per cent fall in the four weeks to 25 October.
  • a 12 per cent fall in the four weeks to 22 November.

Falls in this snapshot were recorded for particular offences, such as: residential burglary (-27 per cent), vehicle crime including theft of and from a vehicle (-28 per cent), Grievous Bodily Harm, Actual Bodily Harm and personal robbery (-26 per cent), and shoplifting (-29 per cent). Forces have also continued to observe decreases compared to last year for 101 call volumes (-15 per cent) and 999 volumes (-18 per cent).

Officer and staff absence levels:
Forces continue to benefit from a low officer and staff absence figure of 8 per cent across the UK. Chief Constables are monitoring this closely alongside recent increases in infection across the country. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is readily available to officers and staff for their protection whilst on duty, and there is a good supply of stock across the country.

Understanding the FPN data:
In order to provide a clear national snapshot of FPNs for a reporting period, the NPCC draws from ACRO data. The NPCC only provides FPN data that has been submitted by forces and then processed by ACRO.

The updated totals issued in this release reflect a mix of new FPNs issued in the latest reporting period, alongside additional processing and cancellation by ACRO for dates covered by previous releases.

Overall data on FPNs issued for newly implemented Regulations will be affected by a processing lag time between forces issuing a notice and ACRO processing it. Actual force totals may therefore differ from the national totals presented in this release, and as with all releases to date. Updated totals will be reflected in future releases as processing continues.

We have not included data on the scaling of notices based on repeat offending. This can be sought directly from individual forces.

FPN totals for the Christmas and New Year period

  • Between 18 – 24 December 2020, 1,415 FPNs were issued in England and 118 in Wales
  • Between 25 – 31 December 2020, 1,629 FPNs were issued in England and 151 in Wales
  • Between 1- 7 January 2021, 2,090 FPNs were issued in England and 135 in Wales

On International Travel Quarantine:
The police will only become involved once they receive a referral from UK Border Force via their triage centre and support is requested, or following intelligence brought to police attention. Border Force are also issuing their own data on fines given – their figures are not included as part of today’s data release.

College of Policing guidance states that where police are unable to get an answer following a visit to an address, then additional follow-up visits are suggested. If there is still no answer, the times and dates of the visits should be recorded and fed back to Border Force via the triage centre.

Due to data coming from multiple sources for this Regulation’s reporting, we have provided FPN data in line with the date period covered by this release, as processed by ACRO. Engagement data is received through a different reporting route, and therefore dates do not match.

For any questions about penalties issued at the Border, triage centre referrals, and information concerning the Passenger Locator Form, please contact Border Force.

On Face Coverings:
Given that police enforcement is a last resort option, NPCC data won’t cover the breadth of circumstances where someone has been refused travel or access to a restricted setting, as police wouldn’t have been called in the vast majority of those cases. Prior to police involvement, transport staff will use their discretion and may even prevent passengers in breach from travelling, with many individuals simply ending their journey or proceeding to wear a face covering at that point.

These are matters which will be resolved by staff in the first instance within retail settings, and businesses, local authorities and licensing authorities will have responsibility for ensuring premises are compliant and Covid-Safe.

National Restrictions and Alert Levels (All Tiers and Alert Tiers) in England:
Please contact forces for further information on their local enforcement activity. Overall data on FPNs issued will be affected by a processing lag time between forces issuing a notice and ACRO processing it.

Tier 4 restrictions applied in limited cities/counties prior to the imposition of a national lockdown in England in January 2021. Following the announcement of a lockdown, this Tier was amended in regulations to cover the whole of England.

On Self-Isolation Regulations:
Due to processing work which is necessary between policing and relevant criminal justice partners for the fulfilment of notices issued under this regulation, we are not in a position to publish national figures until this processing work concludes.

Payment of FPNs:
The NPCC have committed to provide more thorough analysis of FPN payment data at a future date. We previously provided indicative data relating to the Coronavirus No. 1 Regulation notices, which had all completed their 28 day payment periods.

At this stage we are unable to provide individual force totals or payment proportions for Regulations which still have payment periods outstanding.

If an FPN is contested or not complied with within the 28 day payment period, the case becomes a matter for HM Courts and Tribunals Service following a force level review.