Fife crime rise as ‘pingdemic’ hits police absences
Fife's top cop has sought to reassure locals that recent spikes in crime are blips that will smooth out as the Kingdom recovers from Covid-19 – and the force manages a pingdemic of absences.
Chief Superintendent Derek McEwan, divisional commander for Fife, says crimes have risen as lockdown restrictions have eased - but says increases in road offences, violence, sexual offences and anti-social behaviour are "skewed" by the country's lockdown last year.
Policing in the Kingdom has also been compromised by mass absences linked to the pandemic, with dozens off sick or self-isolating on any given day.
"Half of our absences are Covid-related, which affects our ability to deliver policing to our communities," he told a Fife Council committee last week.
"The data is skewed by the trends Covid has created to date as well."
A total of 3,727 crimes were recorded between April and June this year - 17% more than in the same period of 2020.
The number of sexual offences reported for the period has almost doubled in the space of a year, rising from 225 to 413 for the quarter.
However, Ch Supt McEwan said 58 of these offences were linked to the Scottish Child Abuse Enquiry, which has been investigating a number of historical allegations at residential schools in the Kingdom.
And while crimes of dishonesty such as housebreaking and shoplifting are on the rise compared to the same period last year, the number of reports is lower than in 2018 and 2019.
The divisional commander added that the easing of restrictions was leading to a drop in the number of Covid rule breaches officers were investigating - but a rise in old and new types of crime too.
"We do not have Covid calls at the level we had this time last year but crime is returning to a business as usual level," he added.
With the worst of the pandemic hopefully behind it, Fife division is sharpening its focus on "county lines" rackets, where drug gangs from the south of England move their operations out of cities and into smaller communities across the UK.
Operation Pinnacle is an exercise dedicated to tackling the problem in Fife, with officers particularly focused on preventing dealers from taking over the homes of vulnerable people to use as a base of operations, a practice known as "cuckooing".
To date, Pinnacle has led to the seizure of cash, drugs and a stun gun, and six people have been charged with offences and bailed on the condition they do not enter Scotland.
"[Dealers] have moved away from traditional business in cities and moved into local communities and filled these areas with drugs and drugs offending," Ch Supt McEwan added.
"That doesn't just bring problems but significant violence to these communities as well.
"We are trying to assess the problem in Fife as it is something of a hidden problem - but it is an emerging one."
Road safety on the north east's country passages and drug and acquisitive crimes in the Kingdom's towns remain priorities, after these types of offences rose as lockdown restrictions eased.