Crime has fallen significantly over the last year in Watford, official police records reveal.
Seeing as the national ‘stay at home message’ was enforced for most of 2020, it appears lockdown restrictions may have had some impact on criminal offences.
Hertfordshire Constabulary recorded 8,178 offences in Watford in the 12 months to September, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
That was a decrease of 17 per cent compared to the previous year, when there were 9,909.
At 85 crimes per 1,000 people, that was slightly higher than the rate across England and Wales, which stood at 83.
Crimes recorded in Watford included:
• 242 sexual offences, a decrease of 17 per cent
• 2,726 violent offences, a decrease of 2 per cent
• 693 incidents of criminal damage and arson, down 1 per cent
• 328 drug offences, down 15 per cent
• 84 possession of weapons such as firearms or knives, down 16 per cent
• 590 public order offences, down 13 per cent
• 3,194 theft offences, down 29 per cent
Overall, police recorded 6 per cent fewer crimes across England and Wales – there were around 5.7 million offences in the year to September.
The ONS said this was driven by substantial falls in the three months to June, particularly in theft offences.
But separate figures from its Crime Survey for England and Wales show the estimated number of victims of crime in the three months to September were similar to levels seen in the run-up to the pandemic.
Helen Ross, from the ONS Centre for Crime and Justice, said: “The coronavirus pandemic and related lockdown restrictions have resulted in fluctuations in the level of crime experienced in England and Wales.
“Data from the survey showed decreases in crime at the start of the pandemic, with rises seen over the summer months, specifically in theft, following the easing of lockdown measures, with overall crime now back at pre-lockdown levels of January to March 2020.
“There were also fluctuations in police recorded crime, but total recorded offences for July to September 2020 were below that seen in the same period in 2019.”
The ONS said an annual 3 per cent drop in recorded knife crime across England and Wales was largely down to a 22 per cent decrease in April to June. However, this was followed by a sharp increase in the three months to September.
Children’s charity Barnardo’s warned that offences could “erupt” once the latest lockdown is eased.
Chief executive Javed Khan said: “Children and young people have spent months out of school and away from their support networks, leaving many vulnerable to exploitation and control by criminal gangs who have seized on the disruption.
“With rising unemployment and poor job prospects, some young people are finding it hard to believe in a positive future, and see no alternative but to turn to a dangerous way of making money, carrying knives to protect themselves.”