Ministers fear end of lockdown will see ‘spike in serious violence’

Ben Riley-SmithSun, 21 February 2021, 8:32 pm

Floral tributes left on Chalgrove Road, Tottenham, north London, where a 17-year-old girl has died
Floral tributes left on Chalgrove Road, Tottenham, north London, where a 17-year-old girl has died

Cabinet ministers fear a spike in crime as Covid-19 restrictions are eased and will reach out to officials in 30 potential crime ‘hotspots’ to demand improved preparations.

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, and Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, are understood to be leading the drive.

On Monday, all three ministers will write to local authorities, children’s services and police forces in the 30 “serious violence hotspots” urging them to consider extra measures to stop a crime rise.

The pre-emptive move comes after serious violence soared after the first lockdown last year was lifted, hitting levels higher than before the restrictions were adopted.

A Government source said: “These measures will send a strong message to potentially violent individuals that the pandemic has not weakened our resolve, or changed the rules we all play by, when it comes to violence.

We must do all we can to work together to suppress any surge in violence and save lives.” The source said the Home Office was urging police to use “highly targeted, analytically driven and visible enforcement action” to avoid another crime surge.

The areas selected for the targeted messaging were those which saw the most hospital admission for assault with a sharp object between April and September last year.

Most are urban centres including Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol, Newcastle, Leicester, Doncaster, and multiple boroughs of London.

A crime surge after lockdown in some form will be difficult to avoid given the current rules encourage people to stay at home, limiting the number of people out in public.

The number of knife offences increased by 25 per cent to 12,120 offences in July to September 2020 when compared with the previous quarter, ONS data has previously shown.

Between July and September, there was also a 13 per cent rise in “threats to kill” offences involving a knife, up to 1,270, when compared with the same period last year. END