City centres across the country, left deserted after Boris Johnson enforced the closure of restaurants, entertainment venues and all but essential shops, have been targeted by a string of burglaries. Criminal gangs are taking advantage of the nationwide lockdown, as police forces in Manchester, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Glasgow report a sharp rise in burglaries. The break-in’s have prompted police to carry out night patrols in an effort to curb crime rates.
Just 24 hours after the lockdown was first introduced, Manchester police reported a number of suspects were found carrying crowbars and hammers.
As a result the force decided to increase the number of night-time patrols.
Chief Inspector Zac Fraser, of Greater Manchester police’s City of Manchester division, told the Sunday Times: “Over the past few days a number of suspects have been arrested following reported break-ins in the city centre.”
Pat Karney, Manchester’s city centre chief and council spokesman, said they were taking precautions to prevent the “scallywags” from taking advantage of the pandemic.
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He said: “When the businesses are closed down, some scallywags will see it as an opportunity to break in and burgle.
“I think some will be licking their lips at some commercial premises and we are taking every precaution.”
But Manchester isn’t the only city encountering a rise in burglaries, with Liverpool police stating several pubs and construction sites had been targeted this week.
Elsewhere, police in Cleveland, a county in north east England, said nine business premises were broken into in the space of 24 hours last week.
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The criminals stole cash and stock from pubs and hairdressers’ in Middlesbrough, Stockton and Hartlepool.
Pam Kelly, the chief constable of Gwent police, the area with the highest number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 of population outside London, said police were having to “change tactics” to adapt.
But so far the police chief reported a decline in reported crime.
She said: “We’re seeing a 20 percent reduction in crime being reported as a result of people self-isolating and being in their homes.
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“We are preparing to make sure premises that are left empty are being checked regularly.
“Now people are in their homes and it is pubs, restaurants and businesses that are vacant.
“There is a transferral of vulnerability that we are adapting to.”
Cumbria police said they are experiencing a slight decrease in burglaries, due to the lockdown.
A senior officer told the newspaper: “We’re seeing residential burglaries down slightly as people are at home more.”
The UK’s lockdown was introduced on Monday, and is set to last for an initial three weeks.
The Government will then review the latest advice and decide whether to extend the measures.
Professor Neil Ferguson, the Government’s leading epidemiology adviser, has warned the lockdown could be extended until June.
He told the Sunday Times: “We’re going to have to keep these measures in place, in my view, for a significant period of time — probably until the end of May, maybe even early June. May is optimistic.”
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