Surrey Police ready to meet the challenges of second lockdown
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Robust plans are in place to ensure that Surrey Police can continue to meet the challenges of further changes to the coronavirus regulations – that was the message from Chief Constable Gavin Stephens following the introduction of the second lockdown last week.
Urging Surrey residents to play their part in preventing the spread of the virus, CC Stephens urged people to stay at home as much as possible to save lives.
Thanking the Surrey public for their high compliance with the restrictions since the first lockdown was imposed on 23 March, he said:
“We know that this a challenging and unprecedented time for everyone and that the public are doing their best to adapt and follow the rules in place for everyone’s safety. We have seen high levels of compliance in Surrey and I am so grateful to our local communities for this and am confident that this will continue to be the case.
He continued: “Our officers will continue to engage with our local communities using our well-established policing approach of engaging, educating and explaining. However, in exceptional cases, and only as a last resort and where people show a blatant disregard for the rules, we will take enforcement action.”
520 Fixed Penalty Notices have been issued by Surrey Police since the start of the lockdown on 23 March for contravention of lockdown regulations.
A total of six Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) were issued over the weekend following the introduction of the second lockdown on 5 November. Three of the FPNs issued related to the same incident after three men were stopped in a van on suspicion of poaching at the Clacket Lane services on Friday evening (6 November).
Although there was not enough evidence to link to them to the reported poaching incident, all three were issued with £200 fines for breaching current covid restrictions.
Of the six tickets given, all were given to people aged 22-35 years and five of them were given to men.
During the first lockdown, Surrey Police saw an increase in reports of certain crimes, including online fraud, domestic abuse and online child exploitation, as well as a rise in the number of mental health incidents being reported.
However, there was a decrease of 37.5% in the number of residential burglaries between 1 April and 8 November compared to the same period last year. Reports of external child exploitation also decreased during the first lockdown.
Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Ali Barlow said: “These crime patterns are reflected nationally and we will obviously continue to monitor these trends as we navigate our way through the second lockdown.
“We will continue to work with the county’s fantastic outreach services and helplines to support those who report domestic abuse.
“Similarly, we will work with our partner agencies to tackle online exploitation involving children, particularly as they will inevitably be spending more time on their mobile devices during this period.
“During the first lockdown, children were subject to increased tensions within the family and increased exposure to domestic abuse and abuse of alcohol and drugs. The dynamics are different in the second lockdown because children are still going to school.
“We also believe that child abuse did increase during the first lockdown but that it wasn’t reported and so wasn’t reflected in the crime figures.
“We would urge anyone who suspects a child as being at risk of abuse or online or external exploitation to report it to us straightaway. We do not want children to suffer in silence.
“We will also continue to issue tips and reminders about keeping yourself safe from fraud and to not give out your personal details or banking information as we see a shift in everyone spending more time online.
“Safeguarding our most vulnerable victims will always be a top priority for us and we will continue to work with our partner agencies to ensure that we continue to do so alongside all the other demands which are being placed on us in these unprecedented times.”
Since 23 March, we have issued 520 fixed penalty notices (including the six issued over the weekend). These included contravention of restricted movement during emergency period; contravention of gathering of more than two people in a public place; failing to comply with instructions; participating in a gathering in an indoor space; not wearing a face mask within a relevant place; coming back from a non-exempt country and failing to self-isolate; contravention of self-isolation regulations.
Crime trends during first lockdown
Reported incidents peaked in May at the height of the first lockdown (1,509 domestic abuse offences reported in May 2020 compared to 1,292 incidents reported in May 2019). Outreach services across the county also saw an unprecedented number of calls during the first lockdown period.
Since the UK went into lockdown on 23 March 2020, we have seen a 12.2% decline in the number of child abuse reports compared to the same time frame in 2019 (103 less reports). This is largely attributed to the reduced opportunity to spot the signs of child abuse within school, nursery and youth clubs settings with them having closed temporarily.
Online child exploitation
There was a 19% increase in referrals to our Paedophile Online Investigation Team during the same period, indicating that more child exploitation is happening online as children and perpetrators are spending more time on their devices.
There were noticeable increases in the number of mental health incidents and s136 detentions in Surrey.
These incidents were made more complex because of the pandemic, with a recognised increase in presentation by people not previously known to services.
There has been a significant increase in young people being detained under s136 during 2020 (73%) and this uplift begins in April during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The increase in demand is not Surrey specific and has been identified as a national issue by the NPCC and College of Policing mental health lead.
676 fraud offences were reported between 23 March 2020 and 4 July 2020, which was an increase of 73 offences (12.11%) compared to the same period last year. Action Fraud also reported significant increases in reporting of online fraud during lockdown, particularly in relation to online shopping, advance fee fraud, and cheque, plastic card and online banking.
During the first lockdown (March to June) there was an increase in reports of cybercrime (166 reports, compared to 136 reports for the same period in 2019.