Complaints about lockdown breaches trigger huge rise in reports of anti-social behaviour in South Tyneside
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Anti-social behaviour – which now covers unlawful gatherings such as house parties or gangs congregating outdoors – is responsible for nearly half of all incidents logged across South Tyneside.
Official figures for April, the first full month since the start of the lockdown, show that overall complaints have climbed as a result from 1,517 cases in March of this year to 1,855.
The 918 reports about anti-social behaviour compare to 392 the previous month and 373 in April 2019.
Northumbria Police, however, insist that the figures “should be viewed in context” given the introduction of emergency legislation to safeguard against the spread of Covid-19.
The Home Office statistics, which the Gazette analyses monthly, usually see town centre streets or shopping areas dominate the list of hot spots with violence and sexual offences, which are classed together, leading the categories of crime.
But, with bars and the majority of businesses closed, April’s statistics suggest problems have largely moved elsewhere to streets such as Dean Road, Brampton Road and Lavender Lane, in South Shields, and Jarrow’s Grange Place.
A Northumbria Police spokesperson said: “During lockdown, we have seen an increase in the number of some reported crimes including anti-social behaviour.
“But these figures should be viewed in context.
“A significant proportion of these incidents of anti-social behaviour refer to suspected breaches of Covid-19 regulations which have been reported to us by members of the public.
“Our policy since the outset has been to engage with members of the public, explain the restrictions and encourage people to follow them.
“However, we have always stated that where necessary we would make use of legislation available to enforce the regulations in order to protect our communities.
“We would continue to ask everyone to follow the modified regulations.
“Personal responsibility is now key and, for those who are able to leave their homes as a result of the changes, please think carefully about where you are going and how you will be able to keep your distance from others.”
But, with the onset of warmer weather and lockdown restrictions easing, May’s figures will potentially reveal another rise when they are released.
Discussing Northumbria Police’s commitment to tackle anti-social behaviour, the force spokesperson said: “We understand the corrosive and harmful impact that anti-social behaviour committed by a minority of individuals can have on the communities we serve.
“As a result, we will continue to take a proactive approach in tackling pockets of disorder and work closely with partners to ensure hotspot areas are identified and those responsible are appropriately dealt with.”
The ongoing pandemic has at least offered the force one opportunity.
Quieter streets, making it easier to identify and follow vehicles, and lockdown restrictions have allowed officers to arrest 367 of their most wanted fugitives.