There has been a noticeable change in the type of crime committed during COVID-19, with some criminals resorting to more traditional methods.There has been a marked drop in house burglaries, theft (mainly from shops) and cold call fraud. The lockdown has resulted in most homes being occupied by a family member, and of course, anyone with children in education are either at home looking after young ones, or teenage children are at home themselves.
Social distancing has played it`s part too, where only a handful of people are allowed into a shop at one time, which is managed by staff on the door. Criminals who defraud people, mainly the older generation, cannot do so quite as easily with more eyes and ears in the neighbourhood; in addition, the strong sense of community that has come to the forefront, means that neighbours are looking after elderly people and keeping in touch with them more often.
This is all very positive from a crime perspective during what is a very challenging and somewhat negative time for so many people. However, criminals adapt to quench their thirst for committing crime, or to fund a drug habit, so there have been changes in the types of crimes being reported. There has been a rise in break-in`s to sheds and garages overnight and the same has been seen with thefts from motor vehicles, which have also been during the hours of darkness.
Night-time is now providing criminals with an opportunity to steal when they are not seen and most people are in bed. Other than key workers, the number of shift workers travelling to and from work, or being up at unsocial hours has dropped markedly, meaning that there are very few people who see suspicious activity. Cycles, gardening equipment and power tools are being targeted from sheds and garages, which generally have no security, or very little. These items will be sold on quickly through established networks that criminals have made.
Most vehicles are very secure now, however, it is those that people have left unlocked that are being targeted, where there are a surprising number of these. The thieves will be looking for small amounts of cash, sports equipment and gadgets, such as sat-navs, which are easy to sell on. By looking for unlocked vehicles, criminals do not have to carry tools to break in with, meaning that if they are caught, they will not be found `going equipped to steal` and they will have an excuse why they are out at night, which means they will only have to account for why they are making a non-essential trip during lockdown – although in their case, they may see this as essential!
To protect yourself from being a victim of these types of crime is quite simple and relatively low cost. With vehicles, remember to lock them and double check, since it is easy to forget. Don`t leave items inside your car or van and if you do have to, in the case of your trade, fit extra locks and reverse the van against a wall or garage. To protect against shed and garage break-in`s, firstly protect the perimeter of your home.
Movement activated security lighting, gravel paths and hard to reach, secure side gate locks, are a good start and low cost. This may help stop anyone from getting near to the outbuilding in the first place. Robust locks on sheds and garages are next should someone reach them without being seen. Consider alarms which can be activated with movement or vibration too. Next, lock individual items up too, such as cycles and other equipment, making them hard to lift away. Remember that criminals will not want to be seen, but if they do manage to get to what they want, they need to be quick, so by making the perimeter of your home secure and locking up items, this will frustrate their efforts, whereby there is a good chance that they will move on.
In the event of becoming a victim of crime, make sure that you know what has been stolen. The make, model and serial number are very important – keep a list of these somewhere secure. When the police arrest criminals they will use every opportunity to search places that they live or have control over. Where property is recovered, it is impossible to know where it has come from without a serial number, so if this is known to the police when they take the report of your theft, then suspected stolen items that the police seize can be directly linked to your crime, leading to successful prosecutions and the return of stolen goods. The security company Immobilise, is a free national service where you can list you property, which is endorsed by all police forces.
Whilst writing, keep up to date with the latest government advice during COVID-19 and keep you and your family safe.
PC 1860 Mark Ranola.
Yateley Police Office.