Cambridgeshire Police Federation chair Liz Groom says she is dismayed by news that assaults on police officers and other emergency service workers have continued to rise despite an overall fall in crime.
Provisional figures released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) show that police recorded crime for the 43 forces in England and Wales has fallen by 18 per cent overall in the four weeks until 7 June 2020 when compared to the same period last year.
However, assaults on emergency service workers increased by 24 per cent.
“I cannot believe we are talking about an increase in a rise of attacks on the very people who have been out there protecting the public and the NHS during these unprecedented times,” says Liz.
“For some reason, instead of being grateful for their selfless efforts, a minority of people think it’s okay to assault them instead.
“Officers do not go out and do their job in the face of a silent killer like COVID-19, expecting to get attacked for their efforts. Nobody should have to accept that during a day at work and it is never acceptable for people to display this sort of abhorrent behaviour.
“Part of this statistical increase could well be driven by cases of people spitting or coughing at police officers while using the threat of passing on the coronavirus as a weapon. Again, this sort of crime is an absolute disgrace and should never be tolerated.”
Liz said the increase in assaults on emergency service workers could also include some assaults related to issues at a number of recent public protests around the country.
John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation, has also expressed his dismay at the increase in assaults on officers.
He explained: “It is of serious concern that while overall crime has dropped, assaults on emergency workers have increased by 24 per cent. I do not accept any excuses for this rise – any violence shown towards police officers or any emergency workers must be taken seriously by the criminal justice system and should send the message that this is completely unacceptable.”
In terms of the overall crime figures, there was a slight increase in recent months, perhaps as a result of the easing of lockdown restrictions. There had been a 28 per cent fall in recorded crime for the four weeks to 12 April and a 25 per cent fall for the four weeks to 10 May. This is likely due to the effect of lockdown restrictions easing and more people being allowed out of their homes, creating more opportunities for criminals.
NPCC chair Martin Hewitt said: “The vast majority of the public have followed the rules in place to limit the spread of the virus and, as a result, we have seen sustained reductions in crime over the course of the lockdown period. It is no surprise that as more people are able to move around freely, we will begin to see movement towards previous levels, however, this is a gradual change. We are reassured to still be observing significant falls in crime overall.”