Crime survey data published today by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows how offences in Yorkshire (excluding fraud) dropped by 10 per cent between October and December, when compared with the same period in 2019.
The fall was in line with the national average, figures show, however the rise in drug offences in the region was higher than the overall rise across the rest of the country.
Drugs offences increased by 21 per cent in Yorkshire in this time, according to the ONS data, which was steeper than the 15 per cent average rise across the entire country.
However, the 13 per cent rise in stalking and harassment offences in Yorkshire - which include domestic abuse - was lower than the 22 per cent upturn nationally.
According to the figures, more than 128,000 offences were recorded in the final quarter of 2020, excluding fraud.
Commenting on the rise in drugs offences, criminal defence solicitor and director at Lawtons Solicitors Nick Titchener said this was likely a combination of increased police pro-activity during the second UK lockdown and the fact that drug dealers were “too far removed” from being affected by restrictions.
Mr Titchener said: “The ONS report shows that there was a 15 per cent increase in drug offences nationally, driven by a large increase in April to June 2020, and reflecting proactive police activity.
“Organised criminal gangs (OCGs) who are primarily responsible for running drug operations, are too far removed from being affected by lockdown restrictions, and so continued to function. The increase in drug offences is evidence of this.”
He added: “Also, as a lawyer working throughout the pandemic I was aware of ongoing police operations in relation to the organised crime groups.
“Additionally, the target audience of OCGs tends to be addicts or vulnerable people who, in my view, are more prone to exploitation even during lockdown.”
The final quarter of 2020 also saw a 21 per cent drop in knife crime across Yorkshire’s four police forces, with 1,089 serious offences recorded which invloved a knife compared with 1,372 in the same period the year before.
Statistics show that, overall, knife crime fell by nine per cent in England and Wales last year.
Sophie Sanders, of the ONS Centre for Crime and Justice, said: “Although a small proportion of these fluctuations will be the result of seasonal effects on crime trends, the majority can be attributed to the introduction and subsequent easing of national lockdown restrictions throughout the year.
“Most crime types have seen recorded offences fall year-on-year. The notable exceptions are drug offences, because of proactive police activity in crime hotspots during the first lockdown, while violence against the person also saw a small increase.”
Diana Fawcett, chief executive of the charity Victim Support, warned that a fall in reported crime did not mean crime or its impact had gone away.
She said: “Nor does it necessarily reflect the true extent of crime as national lockdowns have limited the opportunities for victims to report crimes, particularly for domestic abuse and sexual offences.
“We are also seriously concerned that the increase in court delays that has been exacerbated by the pandemic may be putting victims off engaging with the justice process altogether.
“We’ve seen a continued rise of people accessing our services as a result of domestic abuse, hate crime and fraud throughout the pandemic and we’re anticipating further increases as lockdown restrictions begin to ease.”