Did Crime Rates Really Fall in 2021?

While speaking in the House of Commons in February, Boris Johnson claimed that crime had fallen by 14%. This figure, pulled from the Crime Survey of England and Wales, excluded fraud and cyber crime – a fiddling of the figures that was widely condemned.

Ignoring the prime minister’s spin, there are many interesting findings in the Crime Survey of England and Wales, which compares crime figures for the year ending September 2021 to the year ending September 2019, providing insight into how the pandemic impacted crime for better and for worse.

Some crime rates fell but lockdowns get the credit

If we remove fraud and cyber crime from the figures, as Boris Johnson did, we do indeed find a reduction in crime of 14%. However, the report attributes this drop to the various restrictions during the pandemic, finding a clear correlation between lockdowns and reduced incidences of crime.

The areas where crime fell were as expected. Without open shops, shoplifting dropped by 13%. With less public activity – particularly the shutdown of pubs, bars and clubs – violence from strangers reduced, though overall incidents of violence remained consistent.

Thefts fell across the board, again, in expected ways. People being stuck in their homes deterred burglary, which fell by 21%. Less people out and about meant theft from a person dropped by 20%, while vehicle and bicycle theft were 26% and 23% lower, respectively.

Unfortunately, the reduction in crime in these areas being so closely linked to pandemic restrictions has meant that as pandemic restrictions have eased crime rates have risen to or exceeded pre-pandemic levels.

The real test will be the next report, where we will see how crime rates level out once all restrictions are removed and how the ongoing cost of living and supply chain crises might affect criminal behaviour.

But what about fraud and cyber-crime? If these are taken into account, total crime increased by 14%, wiping out the reductions in other areas. Unlike Boris Johnson, we will not be ignoring these figures. In fact, the increase is so significant and so serious we have dedicated an article to the topic.

2021 saw record reports of sexual offences

The year ending September 2021 saw a 12% increase in reports of sexual offences compared to the prior period, resulting in the highest yearly total of reported sexual offences on record.

The report reminds us that pre-pandemic estimates found that fewer than one in six people who are victims of sexual assault report the crime to the police. This makes it very difficult to know whether an increase in reports is due to an increase of incidents.

Regardless, it is clear that efforts must continue to drive down sexual assault at its source, provide support for victims, remove the stigma that prevents victims from coming forward and improve confidence in the ability of the police to appropriately handle such crimes.

Long term crime trends worth celebrating

While the report was not as celebratory as Boris Johnson made it seem, there is reason for optimism if we look at long term crime trends. With the exception of sexual offences, knife crime, cyber crime and fraud, crime rates are falling significantly in many key categories.

In many ways, the country has never been safer than it has been in recent times. At Magenta Security, we are proud to have contributed to this reduction in crime through our security services which have kept people and places safe for more than 25 years.

Magenta Security provide award winning security services throughout the UK. We are in the top 5% of ACS approved contractors and were the first security company in Europe to be awarded ISO 14001 for our environmental management systems.

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