Policing the Island and keeping the public safe in the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic saw police officers, support staff and volunteers respond to unprecedented challenges, in what the Chief Constable Gary Roberts describes as a year that was unlike any other before.
The Constabulary’s approach to the pandemic and the three lockdowns during the 12 month period feature prominently in the Chief Constable’s Annual Report 2020-2021 which is published today. The report sets out how the Constabulary pivoted, adopting a focused and flexible COVID-19 policing plan, implementing a new command structure, and reconfiguring the duties of officers and teams Island-wide - a substantial logistical exercise.
The Chief Constable outlines the force’s approach to dealing with those who breached emergency laws, based on guidance from the UK National Police Chiefs Council. This followed the ‘4E’s’ approach: engaging the public, explaining the law and encouraging those who broke the rules to desist. Data shows that enforcement action was taken in only a tiny percentage of cases.
The report describes the differing impact of the lockdowns on people’s mental wellbeing, and charts a rise in crime levels over the year in a number of areas, notably domestic abuse, online fraud, assaults and anti-social behaviour, which saw a marked increase last summer.
The threat posed by Class A drugs to individuals and society, and the drugs trade’s links to serious and organised crime is a familiar topic, raised again in this year’s report - with the involvement of young people in drugs highlighted as a particular concern. Efforts are underway to address some key underlying issues through a partnership approach with agencies including Public Health and local authorities, and a violent crime reduction plan will be implemented in the year ahead. More widely, a restorative programme to deter reoffending has been extended to all new offenders.
The report notes local successes in combatting new and emerging cybercrime, during a year which saw a rise in reports of online fraud as people spent more time online during lockdowns. Island residents can now report suspicious emails and other suspicious activities that have happened on the internet or mobile phone through two local portals, offering enhanced protection for the public.
Additionally, a ‘banking protocol’ initiative in which local high street banks alert police to potential online or telephone exploitation of vulnerable customers, has helped protect many local people.
The report provides context to a rise of 18% in the Island’s overall crime rate in 2020/21, which is in part accounted for by a spike in drug seizures, as small consignments of illegal drugs were sent through the postal system and via couriers when the Island’s borders were closed.
Chief Constable Gary Roberts said:
‘The challenges the Constabulary faced during the health emergency were truly unique in scope and nature. Safeguarding the public, protecting the health service and ensuring our own people stayed well, meant re-inventing ‘business as usual’ from top to bottom. We needed to be fleet of foot to keep pace with rapid changes in the law, to recognise the impact restrictions were having on the public and to deal with the fallout. I am proud of the flexible, compassionate and proportionate approach provided by the force, and I pay tribute to officers, our Special Constabulary who played a key role, our admin teams and valued volunteers.
‘The unique circumstances of the past year make a meaningful comparison of crime statistics with previous years difficult. The figures tell only a small part of the story; the trends which underlie increases in criminal activity offer the bigger picture, and as a community we need to understand and address them. But there are many positives, and the Isle of Man remains the safest place in the British Isles when compared to all 43 police force areas in England and Wales.
The report provides a link to detailed crime data tables and analysis broken down by crime category and geographic area, alongside a comprehensive description of police activity across the board over the 12 month period, while a striking infographic shows the policing year in numbers.