Attacks on emergency service workers soar by almost a quarter since last year

19 June 2020, 13:53

Assaults on emergency services workers rose by 24% amid a string of coughing or spitting attacks
Assaults on emergency services workers rose by 24% amid a string of coughing or spitting attacks. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

Emergency service workers have seen assaults increase by over a quarter since last year amid coronavirus-related attacks and violent protests, new figures suggest.

Provisional data from all 43 territorial forces in England and Wales shows an 18% drop in overall crime, excluding fraud, in the four weeks to June 7, compared with the same period last year.

But assaults on emergency services workers rose by 24% amid a string of coughing or spitting attacks, where Covid-19 has been used as a threat, as well as disorder during protests triggered by the death of George Floyd in the US.

A National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) report published on Friday said: "These offences are recorded in relatively low volumes and it is thought the 24% rise may be driven by increases in common assaults on police constables, including suspects spitting on officers while claiming to be infected with Covid-19.

"The latest rise follows an increase of 14% reported last month and will include some assaults related to disorder in the wake of public protests in early June."

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The NPCC said crime rates are creeping back up towards last year's levels as coronavirus restriction of movement measures are relaxed.

Previous figures released during the lockdown showed a 28% fall for the four weeks to April 12, and a 25% decrease for the four weeks to May 10, compared with the same periods last year.

But there has been an 8% rise in domestic abuse incidents in the latest four-week period compared with last year, and up from 4% in the month to May 10.

Not all incidents result in a crime being recorded and police chiefs believe the increase could be explained by victims being able to report abuse more easily as lockdown restrictions ease.

NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt said: "The rise in domestic abuse incidents is concerning. Our message to victims is to contact us, we will help you.

"You're not alone - confidential support is also available from many charities and specialist services.

"Assaults on emergency workers who do crucial work for the good of us all are deplorable.

"This is an offence and those caught will be prosecuted with the support of the Crown Prosecution Service."

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