Complaints about lockdown breaches trigger huge rise in reports of anti-social behaviour in Northumberland

Spiralling complaints about breaches of emergency coronavirus legislation have triggered a rise in reported crime since the lockdown began.

Anti-social behaviour – which now covers unlawful gatherings such as house parties or gangs congregating outdoors – is responsible for more than half of all incidents logged across large parts of Northumberland.

Official figures for April, the first full month since the start of the lockdown, show Northumbria Police handled 369 such complaints across the force’s Alnwick, Berwick and Morpeth neighbourhood areas.

This compares to 119 the previous month and 160 in April 2019.

Nine complaints were logged in Second Avenue, Stobhill.

Specific locations with the most anti-social behaviour complaints were countryside near Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s land, at Cresswell, where 10 cases were logged, and Second Avenue, in Stobhill, where nine incidents were reported.

Overall alleged crime in the three areas has also climbed as a result by a fifth from 597 cases in March to 722 in April.

Northumbria Police, however, insist that the new figures “should be viewed in context” given the introduction of emergency legislation to safeguard against the spread of coronavirus.

A spokesperson said: “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.”

The monthly Home Office statistics usually see violence and sexual offences, which are classed together, lead the list of Northumberland crime categories.

While 13 of the anti-social behaviour incidents were logged in the holiday areas of Bamburgh, Seahouses, Beadnell and Holy Island, the issue of second home owners is not believed to be a significant factor.

The rise in anti-social behaviour complaints and overall reported crime is also still far smaller numerically than in the force’s urban areas.

Overall reported crimes in the city rose over the same period from 2,174 to 2,660.

Discussing the force’s commitment to tackle anti-social behaviour, the 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 police 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 from “Berwick down to Sunderland”.

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