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Coronavirus is ‘the biggest challenge to policing since the Second World War’, think tank warns

The Policy Exchange report warned of a spike in domestic violence and phishing scams (PA)

2 min read

Britain's police forces are facing their biggest challenge since the Second World War because of the coronavirus epidemic, according to a top think tank.

The military will "inevitably" be required to help forces cope with a surge in certain types of crime, according to Policy Exchange.

Their report suggests that an increase in domestic violence, inter-gang feuds, burglaries and phishing scams is likely amid the pandemic.

But other offences, such as alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour, are likely to fall due to the nationwide closure of pubs, bars and nightclubs. 

The report recommends expanding community initiatives, increasing the street presence of local officers and publishing fresh guidance on online fraud to counter a strain on resources,

Support from the third sector and military will “inevitably be used” as the pandemic reaches its peak in the UK, it added. 

Commenting on the report, Richard Walton, senior fellow at Policy Exchange, said: “The coronavirus outbreak represents the biggest challenge to policing since the Second World War.

“The vast majority of the law-abiding public will pull together over the coming weeks and months. 

“But there may be spikes in certain types of criminal behaviour, especially among drug-dealing gangs fighting over reduced revenues, as well as an increase in online phishing attacks and violence in the domestic sphere.

He added: “Retaining local neighbourhood policing as the glue in local communities, as much as possible, is essential. The emergency services are at their best in the UK when working together.”

Speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, National Police Chiefs’ Council Chair Martin Hewitt said the “indiscriminate” virus would “affect policing”. 

He added: "We always have plans to be able to work with not just the military but all sorts of other agencies that can assist us.

"We've put plans in place in every force to manage how we survive and how we continue to deliver our service if we have reduced numbers, particularly in specialist areas.

"As we already do for other big issues, we are able to move resources around the country to support areas that are particularly under pressure.

He continued: "We have well-tested methods of working with the military, but I restate the point we are going to be capable of policing in the way we have policed.

"Of course we will be stretched, that's why I ask people to think about placing demands on our service."

He also urged people to try and reduce the demand on policing by using other measures, such as online services or the 111 helpline.

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