We’re Heading for a Pandemic Crimewave. What are you going to do about it?
The UK economy begins 2021 on the back foot, as record numbers of Coronavirus infections and tougher restrictions have clouded the outlook for a rapid recovery from the country’s worst recession in 300 years.
Despite hopes that the COVID-19 vaccine would be a boost of economic positivity, the most recent lockdown means that the outlook is deteriorating. During the first lockdown in April 2020 total crime levels dropped, but that hasn’t stopped criminals from exploiting the virus.
It is predicted that 2021 will see a rise in crime levels as unemployment rates rise, city centres stay quiet and property and businesses are left vacant. There has also been recent comment in the news that young people lacking educational opportunities or structure can lead to increased gang recruitment, boredom and rebellion. Some studies have even suggested that those who finish their education during economic recessions disproportionately become career criminals rather than gain legitimate employment.
David Jamieson, the West Midlands’ Police and Crime Commissioner, reported a huge rise in street violence and shootings. He said, “The gangs are fighting for territory, [they’re] getting really quite bold.” He added that he is concerned that the levels of violence are going to increase without measures to keep young people – particularly young men and teenage boys – in education, training or employment.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness shares the fear: “We all know that unemployment goes hand-in-hand with high crime rates. That’s why we’re doing everything possible to support young people and ensure they have opportunities right here on our doorstep, but the Government needs to act fast and address the bigger picture.” The Institute for Public Policy’s recent research suggests that without further Government action there will be an extra 620,000 young UK citizens unemployed by the end of the year.
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Waheed Saleem said the economic climate would have an “inevitable impact on crime” as he called for an urgent plan from the Government “to stop an economic crisis becoming a crime wave.”
In August The Construction Equipment Association (CEA) announced a 50% surge in construction crime rates since the first lockdown and advised the industry to tighten security measures. For example, a recent report in the Yorkshire Evening Post told of residents’ lives being put at risk as criminals plundered 92,000 metres – around 57 miles – of hard drawn copper wire belonging to Northern Powergrid. 45,000 homes in Yorkshire and the North East were left without power. Raids on construction sites are nothing new. It is a problem that costs an estimated £800m per year.
But it’s not just the theft of electrical metal that is on the increase. The theft of catalytic converters has also risen, prompted by rising metal prices during the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting commercial car dealerships, private homes and even vehicles owned by NHS staff – because they are parked for prolonged periods during shifts, giving thieves ample time to remove the devices.
Ken Gordon, Managing Director of Crown Security Solutions, warned that businesses need to take advantage of the vast experience and professionalism of security firms and use manned guarding services and mobile patrols for sites including office buildings, warehouses, factories, universities, industrial estates and even residential. He said, “As well as checking for intruders, they will also check for signs of damage. Our customers have found that just having mobile patrols around the property presents a visible deterrent. Plus, our cohesive approach to security strategies means that our customers often use a mixture of our security consultancy services and specialist services. The first step would always be to ask us to assess and implement a physical security strategy, which will incorporate not just a manning solution but a full hybrid solution – including AI technology, facial recognition, CCTV, perimeter intrusion detection systems, and security staff, to name a few.”