Crime: Two burglars blamed as Stevenage break-ins soar amid lockdown
- Credit: Archant
Herts police fingered two crooks after 137 per cent spike in burglaries.
Police have blamed a 137 per cent spike in burglaries in Stevenage on two crooks, who have since been brought to book.
Herts police caught the burglars using covert surveillance after they staged break-ins at a series of shops, including during the coronavirus lockdown.
Crime stats released by the Home Office last week found burglaries in the borough had more than doubled in March 2020, compared to March 2019 – despite most other types of crime having fallen. Nationally crime, especially burglaries, had collapsed during the lockdown.
Overall, crime in Stevenage was down 9.7pc compared to last year, with vehicle crime down 31pc, theft from person down 29pc and shoplifting down 39pc.
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Criminal damage and arson were down 30pc, drugs crime dropped by 44pc and possession of weapons had decreased by 64pc, from 11 cases in March 2019 to just four in March 2020.
However, anti-social behaviour only dropped by 1pc, from 225 cases in March 2019 to 222 in March 2020.
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Public order offences were stable, with 55 cases in both months, and robbery also saw no change, with five cases in both March 2019 and March 2020.
Violent and sexual offences were down 7pc but there were still 255 cases in March 2020.
But burglaries shot up, from 27 cases last March to 64 cases this March.
A Herts Police spokesman said: “The increase in burglary figures for Stevenage during March 2020 was due to a series of commercial burglaries that were being committed in shops across the town, before and during the lockdown period.
“Following an increase in proactive patrols and revised patrol plans, which included covert work, two men have been arrested and charged with these offences.”
Both men have now been convicted.
Ben Horton, 33, of Brent Court, was arrested on May 5 and, on May 6, attended Stevenage Magistrates’ Court, where he pleaded guilty to smashed his way into WHS in Queensway three days earlier, in order to steal computer hardware and vape pens.
He also admitted stealing a bicycle from a key worker.
He was given a nine-month jail term and ordered to pay £100 compensation to the carer, plus a £1,049.85 fine for the burglary.
Scott Liddon, 30, of Penn Road, pleaded guilty to burglaries at the Bengal Lounge, Garden House Hospice and SL Anderson Pharmacy.
He also admitted theft from the Salvation Army shop and possession of a bladed article.
He admitted the offences at Hatfield remand court on April 11 and is due to be sentenced this Friday, May 15.
Herts Police has credited teams of PCSOs and volunteers with reductions in crime across the county.
In Stevenage, crime was down by 9.7 per cent in March 2020, compared to March 2019.
The force said its Safer Neighbourhood Teams were a key part of identifying and tackling emerging crime trends.
The force has also seen a slight increase in officer numbers. At the end of March 2019, it had 1,981 officers, compared to 2,045 at the start of March 2020 – an increase of just over 3pc.
It said: “It is difficult to attribute peaks and troughs in crime to any one specific cause, but we have a variety of different options and resources available to us, to help reduce crime, catch criminals and help keep people safe.
“Hertfordshire has retained strong local Safer Neighbourhood Teams, who are able to identify and swiftly tackle issues that require specific local action.”