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Police / Crime figures take sharp drop during lockdown

THE IMPACT of lockdown on crime rates was spelled out on Wednesday as Shetland’s police chief presented the force’s latest statistics.

The figures were provided to a meeting of Shetland’s community safety and resilience board in its first session since November.

The number of people detected for speeding in the financial year to date stands at 17 compared to 49 in the same period in 2019/20.

This was put down to reduced movement of public traffic during lockdown.

The number of instances of shoplifting is down by three quarters – from 20 to five – because a number of premises were shut.

Shetland’s chief inspector Lindsay Tulloch. Photo: Shetland News

Incidents of vandalism sits at 15 – down by 18 on the previous year – while common assaults were also less frequent.

Drugs related offences stand at 27 compared to 37 in the previous year.

The number of sexual crimes is also down, but the figure includes reporting of non-recent incidents.

There was a rise in instances of domestic abuse, but chief inspector Lindsay Tulloch said this was a positive as it showed that people felt able to come forward to report these crimes.

There were 35 domestic abuse crimes in the period compared to 28 in 2019/20.

The number of people detected for drink/drug driving offences was also up by one, with Tulloch saying this remained a concern even in the lockdown period.

He also highlighted that despite transport links being stifled drugs were still being brought into Shetland.

“Drugs have found their way to Shetland via the postage services and courier services,” Tulloch said.

A report to members added: “Communities in Shetland adhered to Covid lockdown restrictions at great personal cost.

“We worked with our local communities and applied the national Engage, Explain, Encourage guidelines to any infractions of lockdown restriction.

“On a very small number of occasions were we required to enforce and issue fixed penalty notices. This was done only to recidivist offenders.”

The report also said that the pandemic “brought out the best in the majority of our people”.

“Communities have rallied round their vulnerable residents and we have all collectively looked out for our neighbour,” it said.

“However, it was important also to send out the message that less scrupulous individuals’ may seek to exploit vulnerability.

“National and local online messaging encouraged people to think about their personal safety and encouraged individuals to be vigilant about who they may wish to engage with and accept help from.”

The police also said that throughout the initial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, officers continued to engage with partners at the main ports in an effort to “disrupt and deter those intent on bringing illicit substances to our shores”.

Tulloch told Wednesday’s meeting that Covid-19 has had a “significant effect” on police officers in Shetland.

Part of this related to the use of personal protective equipment – something he said officers were now well-versed in.

“It’s quite a challenging time for the police service but in Shetland the multi agency response has been particularly good and we are in a good position at the moment,” he said.

Shetland Central councillor Moraig Lyall asked whether any crimes were starting to pick up again now that lockdown had been relaxed, or if some of the behaviour of the last number of months was going to carry through long-term.

Tulloch said there had been an increase as more people started moving again but there were no significant areas of concern.

The area commander also confirmed that local officers are now trained to use new equipment to detect drug driving following a change in law.

“We have had detections since that legislation came into place [in October],” Tulloch said.

A local police plan for 2020-23 was also presented at the meeting.

It sets the direction for policing priorities for the coming years.

Some of the key areas are road safety/crime, serious organised crime, acquisitive crime, antisocial behaviour, violence and disorder, protecting vulnerable people and terrorism and public order.

It also recognises that there is a focus on mental health in the workplace.