Report Summary

  • Crime fell dramatically during the UK’s Coronavirus lockdowns, down nearly 12% in 2020 when compared to the same March - December period in 2019, excluding anti-social behaviour.
  • Drugs, public order offences, and anti-social behaviour were the only crimes to see rises during this period, with drug offences up 12%, public order up 2.5%, and anti-social behaviour up nearly 40%.
  • Biggest drops were seen in snatch theft and pickpocketing, personal theft from the person down by 52%; shoplifting down 37%; robbery and muggings dropped by 32%; and burglary down by 30%.

Introduction

One of the most hotly debated lockdown topics during the UK’s Coronavirus outbreaks was the Covid lockdown effect on crime. Our analysis of open police data, comparing the same March to December period in 2019 against 2020, shows some interesting and dramatic changes not seen in previous years.

Coronavirus lockdown crime rate changes chart
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Published: 29th March 2021
Updated: 29th March 2021

Changes in Crime Rates

Given the nature of the UK’s lockdowns, it’s perhaps not surprising that the crimes with the biggest drops involved direct person-to-person contact; snatch thefts and pickpocketing saw a 52% reduction in the number of crimes reported, and robbery saw a 32% drop. With most of the population staying at home, either to work or home schooling their children, burglary also saw a huge drop of 30%. Violence and sexual offences saw a more modest drop of 2.1%, a fall possibly affected by a rise in domestic abuse cases.

Covid-19 crime rate changes compared across the years 2015-2020

With non-essential retail and shops closed, the opportunities for shoplifting were greatly reduced, and the number of reports fell accordingly, down by 37%. The country was told to stay at home, to work from home wherever possible, and this severely limited travel options. We can see this reflected in the smaller number of vehicle crime reports, now down by 26%, and bicycle theft down by nearly 12%. Given there was little excuse to be out and about, possession of weapons offences fell by just under 10%, and criminal damage and arson by 14%.

The population was not living entirely happily under Covid-19 restrictions, however. Public order offences rose by 2.5%, and drug offences rose by over 12%. The largest increase was seen in anti-social behaviour, which rose by a quite huge amount, up nearly 40% during 2020’s lockdown, compared to the same interval in 2019.

Methodology

We analysed crime reports from open police data, aggregating each crime type by year for the years 2016-2020. We then compared the number of crime reports that were reported between March and December of 2019 and 2020 respectively, and computed the percentage increase or decrease from 2019 to 2020 for each crime type.

We computed the standard score for each crime type, and charted the results, by year, using DataGraph. It’s important to note that the lines drawn for 2019 and 2020 refer to the lockdown period and not the year as a whole.