Provisional figures released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) show police recorded crime across England and Wales has fallen by 18 per cent in the four weeks until 7 June this year, when compared with the same period last year.
However, assaults on emergency service workers have increased by 24 per cent.
Roger Webb, secretary of Dyfed Powys Police Federation, said the continued decrease in crime was to be welcomed but added he was horrified by statistics showing that police officers and other emergency workers were increasingly coming under attack.
“This is a particularly despicable crime at the best of times,” says Roger, “But during the coronavirus crisis, it makes it even worse because of the threat of contracting the virus.
“While our officers are on the front-line, serving the public, protecting the NHS and putting the health and safety of themselves and their families at risk, a small minority of the public think it is okay to spit and cough on them or commit a physical assault.
“Their attitude beggars belief and I hope those caught doing so will be brought to justice and given a long time to think about their actions. It’s never acceptable for anyone to have to put up with being attacked while carrying out their job.
“And I fear those figures are set to rise further when the statistics come through regarding the protests that have taken place around the country in the past few weeks. Sometimes, they have led to disorder and I know officers have been hurt.”
John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, has also condemned the increase in attacks.
“The lockdown restrictions have prevented criminal activity, which is a good thing for the public. The slight increase shows that as the lockdown has lessened, the opportunities to commit crime has increased,” he explained.
“It is of serious concern that, while overall crime has dropped, assaults on emergency workers have increased by 24 per cent. I do not accept any excuses for this rise - any violence shown towards police officers or any emergency workers must be taken seriously by the criminal justice system and should send the message that this is completely unacceptable.”
The provisional figures published by the NPCC do show that crime may be starting to increase again.
The 18 per cent fall recorded most recently compares to a 28 per cent fall for the four weeks to 12 April and the 25 per cent fall for the four weeks to 10 May. This is put down to the effect of lockdown restrictions easing and more people being allowed out of their homes, creating more opportunities for criminals.
NPCC chair Martin Hewitt said: “The vast majority of the public have followed the rules in place to limit the spread of the virus, and as a result we have seen sustained reductions in crime over the course of the lockdown period. It is no surprise that as more people are able to move around freely, we will begin to see movement towards previous levels, however this is a gradual change. We are reassured to still be observing significant falls in crime overall.”