The UK-wide lockdown has undoubtedly changed daily life for us all, and many of us are adapting to a new way of living and working. The lockdown has also had a marked effect on crime levels, with many forces reporting a sharp downturn in overall crime. For example:
- West Country police record sharp downturn in crime during COVID-19 lockdown.
- Coronavirus lockdown: Anti-social behaviour on rise but overall crime falls.
- 999 calls drop during coronavirus lockdown.
Why the drop?
We can easily explain the decrease in some crime types during the lockdown:
- Burglaries are down because people are spending much more time in their homes.
- Violent crimes are down due to the closure of pubs and nightclubs.
- The reduction of opportunist crimes, such as personal theft, stems from fewer people on the streets in our cities and towns.
However, this decrease is not across the board. Some crime types are on the rise, in particular, a significant increase in domestic violence and fraud. For example:
- Domestic abuse killings 'more than double' amid Covid-19 lockdown.
- Fraudsters exploiting Covid-19 fears have scammed £1.6m.
In response, the police service is adapting its existing processes to ensure it continues to protect the communities it serves. Simultaneously, forces are seeking to maximise the insight they can gain from the resultant increased data volumes.
Domestic violence assessment
The increase in reported cases of domestic violence will place a strain on specialist policing resources needed to respond to such incidents. The police will investigate every incident. However, there will inevitably be a requirement to prioritise those individuals who are in imminent and escalating danger.
A major challenge in any such assessment is access to information that may reside either with partner agencies or in disconnected force systems. There is a pressing requirement to enhance multiagency collaboration by embracing modern data management and entity resolution technologies. These capabilities will provide the fullest possible data set for a vulnerable individual and the wider pattern of abusive behaviour.
Early intervention in domestic violence can save lives, and it is critical that any assessment of risk is both timely and accurate. The reality is that, as a manual process, assessment is extremely difficult and time-consuming.
Globally, several agencies have greatly improved the efficiency and effectiveness of risk assessment with advanced analytics technologies. They can apply analytics to multiagency integrated information, extracting content from the unstructured narratives of witness accounts and case notes. Analytical models can continuously monitor the data, scoring the factors contributing to risk and alerting investigators to those cases representing the greatest risk or harm.
Fraud is not on lockdown
COVID-19 fraud has already surged by 400% with a sharp rise in scams and online fraud and phishing attacks. We are now faced with the emerging threats from those engaged in serious and organised crime who are adapting their criminal activities as they seek to exploit fresh opportunities that exist in the government’s financial stimulus arrangements.
The UK Chancellor has now set out an unprecedented, timely and targeted package of measures, in excess of £350 billion, to protect millions of people’s jobs, incomes, public services and businesses as part of the national effort in response to coronavirus.
There can be little doubt that those fraudsters and criminals involved in organised crime throughout the UK will already be preparing themselves to profit from the various financial delivery mechanisms put into place, and obtain or divert significant crucial funds to their criminal enterprises.
The true picture of COVID-19 related crime, organised crime and opportunistic fraud may not be known for several weeks or months to come. It is reasonable to assume that there will be a sharp increase in retrospective reporting of some crimes. Since these crimes are increasingly cyber-enabled or committed online, investigations are likely to be complex. Indeed, victims could potentially be in one country and the offenders in another. In addition, due to delays in reporting and the passage of time, the opportunities to gather evidence will potentially be lost.
If and when the government relaxes lockdowns, it may call upon the police service to deliver extraordinary levels of agility and capacity to respond effectively to any sharp increase in retrospective reporting of all types of crime but in particular domestic abuse, child abuse and fraud. Furthermore, the police must also reassure the public that despite any increase in reporting, they are focused on identifying and tackling those who present the greatest threat of risk and harm to our communities.
To respond to these demands, the police service will need to adapt and use every potential technology to support its officers in this unprecedented time.
Register for this webinar to find out how advanced analytics can support the police in providing an enhanced response to incidents of domestic violence.
Register for this webinar to find out how police forces can make use of data and digital evidence to improve their service and keep communities safe from fraud.