How has crime changed during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Due to dramatic changes in people’s patterns of behaviour throughout the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, interesting, and in some cases, dramatic patterns have emerged in crime rates and types of crime being committed. Criminal activity in certain categories has fallen by as much as 20% in some areas. Crime is evolving as fast as society in response to the “new normal”.  

Recent discussions with Draycott Browne (a leading Criminal Law Firm in Manchester) shows anecdotal evidence supporting the idea that Police forces are experiencing a glut of activity in some quarters, while experiencing very noticeable declines in other areas of criminal activity.

Early patterns too are now beginning to appear in data recently published following studies by organisations such as the ONS. These studies also demonstrate that significant fluctuations in the rates and type of crime being committed, (and the types of crime that individuals are facing Police investigation for), have undergone real change during the age of the pandemic.

What types of crime have decreased?

At first glance, the evidence may show the world seems a safer place.

Rape, murder and burglaries fell by roughly a third almost immediately.

There was a roughly 32% reduction in total crime excluding fraud and computer misuse, mostly due to a drop in domestic burglary and other types of theft.

With huge swathes of the population adhering to government guidance to ‘Stay at home’, it is clear there have been fewer opportunities for sexual offences and rape (committed by strangers) and incidences of street robbery have declined sharply. Unsurprisingly, shoplifting was cut in half.  Criminal damage and arson also fell by roughly 50%.

However, there are several categories of criminal activity that have been on the rise.

What types of crime have increased?

Drug offences

Drug offences are one of the few categories to see a rise in 2020. Drug offences rose 22% in April 2020 year over year. Drug offences were 44% higher in May, over the 2019 figures. This spike is likely due to police proactively pursuing offenders. There may be increased drug use, too. Alcohol consumption across the UK has increased, and that can lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour.

Cyber crime

With a large number of people housebound by Covid-19 guidelines, the UK has seen an increase in online offences. This has led to more online bullying and more online child abuse. Unfortunately, for some, an increased Police focus on these types of cyber-bullying and grooming crimes is likely to lead to an increase in false allegations and accusations surrounding online harassment, whether sexual or not.

Criminals have ramped up social engineering and fraud, such as sending links to people promising to send them charitable gifts or stealing their bank account information.

There has been an increase in the sale of fake goods online. This is not just a spike in ecommerce site listings for fake designer handbags or the other usual types of products preferred by counterfeiters and those who would attempt to ‘pass-off’.

There has also been a spike in the selling of fake PPE and testing kits, taking advantage of public fears. More criminals are selling illegal substances online too, attempting to collect payment online and mail illegal drugs to their customers.


Fraud rates were up by roughly a third in the UK in the summer of 2020. The number of fraudulent car and asset finance applications nearly doubled. Fraudulent credit card applications and unsecured loans were up, as well.

Fraud teams have tools in place to flag and investigate many of these fraudulent applications, and they have more time to investigate them since there are fewer applications overall. One theory is that fraudsters are moving their schemes online because there are few other opportunities. Another possible explanation is that they think the current financial crisis caused by the shutdowns will increase their odds of success.

Note that this data doesn’t address the rise in online data harvesting and identity theft that can drain someone’s bank account dry.

Domestic violence

With schools closed, and many workers furloughed, laid off, or expected  to work from home, many victims of domestic abuse found themselves trapped with their abusers in highly charged social, emotional, and financial situations.

More than a quarter million domestic violence offences were recording between April and June 2020, according to ONS figures. That was a seven percent rise over the same period in 2019 and a nearly 20% increase from 2018.

Domestic violence cases, quite plainly, are on the rise because couples have been forced together for long spells, weeks or months, such that individuals might behave, whether it be by consequence of stress or frustration, in a way that is out of character. 

It has also been suggested that the police have improved their methods of recording of these offences.

The growth of domestic violence and decline in other types of crime led to a record ratio of 20% of all crimes reported involving domestic violence.

A growing number of domestic violence calls are made by third parties. This may be because many more people are home when such incidents occur. 

However, the number of domestic related assault offences, rape in particular, that are not proved is alarming. It is not the absence of a successful prosecution that is the concern, it is the real danger that cases are brought against individuals not because of a genuine belief that an offence has been committed, but by consequence of a politically driven desire to increase the number of convictions in cases such as these.

If you have been accused of a domestic violence offence you should seek advice from a criminal law firm.

Draycott Browne Solicitors in Manchester have been offering advice, assistance, and representation to those accused of or charged with serious offences for over 20 years. We offer services through the Legal Aid Scheme, and Mr. Draycott offers the highest standards of representation exclusively on a private fee-paying basis.  Draycott Browne Limited also offers defence of those falsely accused of domestic violence and those considering pleading guilty.


April 2020 – May 2020 crime stats:

August 2020 crime stats:

Increase in illegal online activity:

Fraud rates:

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay