COVID-19: Fraud and computer misuse crimes rise by more than a third in England and Wales during pandemic

Fraud and computer misuse offences have risen by more than a third in England and Wales, largely driven by the coronavirus pandemic.

Estimates from the Crime Survey for England and Wales showed that there were 4.6 million fraud offences in the year ending March 2021, a 24% increase compared with the year before.

The survey also reveals 1.7 million computer misuse offences over the same period, an increase of 85% compared to the year ending March 2019.

The rise in computer misuse offences was largely driven by a 162% increase in unauthorised access to personal information, including hacking.

Most other areas of crime in England and Wales showed significant decreases, again influenced by the pandemic.

The number of homicides decreased by 16% to 600 offences.

There was a 15% decrease in knife-enabled crime recorded by the police in the year ending March 2021.

Police recorded 44,286 knife offences, with the largest decreases seen in April to June 2020 and January to March 2021 where offences were down by 20% and 22% compared with the previous year.

Both these periods coincided with national lockdowns and the highest levels of restrictions.

Recorded offences involving firearms decreased by 14% to 5,709 offences in the year to March. Again, statisticians said much of the fall in gun crime could be linked to the periods of lockdown.

Billy Gazard from the Office for National Statistics Centre for Crime and Justice said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on patterns of crime. There were large decreases in theft offences, such as domestic burglary and theft from the person, as more people stayed at home and limited their social contact.

“At the same time, there were substantial increases in fraud and computer misuse offences such as hacking, as fraudsters took advantage of behavioural changes during the pandemic, such as increased online shopping.”

Mr Gazard said: “The number of people who became victims of violent crime also fell, driven by decreases in violence where the offender was a stranger. This likely reflects a decrease in violence taking place in public spaces during national lockdown restrictions.”

Police forces in England and Wales recorded 5.4 million crimes in the year to March 2021, a 10% decrease from the previous year.

This reduction was apparent across all regions of England and in Wales with decreases of between 5% and 18% in police recorded crime, excluding fraud and computer misuse.

Police recorded 844,955 offences flagged as domestic abuse. This represents a 6% increase from 798,607 offences in the year to March 2020.

This included 672,383 violence-against-the-person offences flagged as domestic abuse-related, a 7% increase compared with the year ending March 2020.

The Office for National Statistics said it was unable to conclude whether there had been an increase in domestic abuse victims over the last year, because of changes in police recording of such offences.

The crime survey was also unable to collect data on domestic abuse as concerns around confidentiality and respondent safeguarding limited the types of questions asked.

However, the ONS said data from victim services suggested that experiences of domestic abuse may have intensified during lockdown and that victims faced difficulties in safely seeking support during these periods.

The number of sexual offences (148,114) recorded by the police showed a 9% decrease in the year ending March 2021 compared with the previous year.

There were three million incidents of theft estimated by the telephone-operated Crime Survey for England and Wales (TCSEW) for the year ending March, a 20% decrease on the previous year.

This large fall is because of a 47% decrease in theft from person offences, with 212,000 such offences in the past year.

The survey also recorded 440,000 domestic burglaries in the 12 months to March this year, a 33% reduction on the year before.

(c) Sky News 2021: COVID-19: Fraud and computer misuse crimes rise by more than a third in England and Wales during pandemic


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