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Coronavirus Kent: Police report reduction in crime compared to last year following lockdown guidelines

Crime across the county has reduced by almost a third following government advice for people to stay home in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Between March 17 and 24 this year, 1,254 fewer offences were reported to Kent Police compared to the same period in 2019.

Chief Constable of Kent Alan Pughsley
Chief Constable of Kent Alan Pughsley

This equates to a 29% reduction in crime year on year.

It follows the introduction of strict guidelines for people to stay home and only venture out for work, essential shopping or appointments or once daily exercise.

It is hoped this move will slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has so far infected more than 30,000 people and killed 3,605 in the UK.

But while Kent Police says the number of crime types has reduced, officers are still anticipating a rise in reports of domestic abuse, fraud and online abuse.

This comes at a time when 11% of the force's staff are currently off work.

Chief constable Alan Pughsley said: "While we have a key role to play in ensuring people adhere to safe distance regulations, our day-to-day police work does not stop and we remain committed to tackling and preventing crime, targeting the most dangerous members of our society and protecting those who are most vulnerable.

Police in Folkestone
Police in Folkestone

"Our absence rate for staff and officers currently stands at about 11% but our ability to continue with business as usual has not been unduly affected.

"Vulnerable people and victims of crime can therefore rest assured that we are still here for them, while those intent on causing them harm can also be assured that they will be arrested and brought to justice.

"We have plans in place to cope should we experience a significant reduction in the number of available officers, including asking people who have recently left the force such as retired officers, Special Constables and volunteers to return.

"I am determined that we continue to provide the people of Kent with the very best service possible, no matter what."

The chief constable also hit out at those who have ignored government guidelines to isolate at home.

New legislation introduced under the Coronavirus Act gives police the ability to fine or arrest people who fail to comply with the rules - but this will only be used as a last resort in Kent.

It comes as the county is set for warm weather over the weekend, which could tempt some people to leave home.

Police patrolling Hythe seafront
Police patrolling Hythe seafront

Mr Pughsley added: "The vast majority of people in Kent have been brilliant and are doing exactly as they have been asked to do by the government, which is to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.

"A minority have chosen not to, and on these occasions my officers have been engaging with them, explaining why the restrictions are necessary and encouraging them to comply.

"Enforcement will only be used as a last resort and I hope this will be rarely necessary because it will show that people are listening to what my officers are telling them.

"It is however so important that we all continue to stay at home unless for one of the few clear reasons outlined by the government.

"This is a national health emergency the likes of which most of us have never experienced before and hopefully never will again, but if we all do as we are instructed then the quicker we hope our lives can all go back to normal."

Councils issued a similar warning urging people to refrain from going out in the sun.

As of today, 3,605 people have died of the virus in the UK
As of today, 3,605 people have died of the virus in the UK

The concept of social distancing is to protect the NHS, which is already under strain due to the virus, other key workers and the public.

Mr Pughsley expressed his thanks and admiration for the police officers, NHS staff and other essential workers helping to battle the Covid-19 pandemic on the frontline.

He said: "Every day I ask my officers to leave their families at home and put themselves in potentially dangerous situations to protect others from harm.

"I want them to know I am eternally grateful for everything they do, and that I have the utmost respect and admiration for them as they put the welfare of others before their own.

"I also want to thank the doctors, nurses and other NHS staff who are doing such a fantastic job in battling this terrible virus and helping to save so many lives.

"These are difficult times for everyone but it is reassuring to know we have some of the best and most dedicated health workers in the world looking after us, and they deserve the highest praise."

In other news, Kent Fire and Rescue Service reports an increase in the number of calls to 999 concerning bonfires.

It is thought with more people isolating at home and with the closure of household waste sites, more people are having bonfires.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

Read more: Latest coronavirus news from Kent

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