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Police braced for increase in acquisitive crime as economy slumps

PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne asked people to stay at home this bank holiday weekend and keep the ‘momentum’ going.

Police are braced for an increase in burglaries as the economy slumps and coronavirus lockdown eases in Northern Ireland, the chief constable said.

Officers are shifting their focus away from check points on roads that lead to recreational hotspots to tackling crimes like theft, Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief Simon Byrne said.

He reiterated his plea for people to stay at home this bank holiday weekend and keep the “momentum” going.

The force has enforced movement restrictions around 1,000 times during the pandemic, the senior officer said, but levels of some forms of crime have plummeted as more people stayed at home.

There is a risk, if the economy does not pick up soon, that there is a risk of acquisitive crime, burglary and theftSimon Byrne

Mr Byrne said: “We are looking at moving from fighting the virus to fighting crime as we restore neighbourhood policing.”

He urged people to continue to follow the restrictions this bank holiday weekend but signalled a pivot back towards normal duties.

“We need to stay one step ahead of crime.

“There is a risk, if the economy does not pick up soon, that there is a risk of acquisitive crime, burglary and theft.

“We need to have people back in their districts to get intelligence and information.”

People who do not share a household are now allowed to meet up in groups outdoors of up to six.

The change to the law was agreed by Stormont ministers this week and could make it more difficult to limit movement.

Mr Byrne urged members of the public to continue to act sensibly and think twice before putting elderly relatives at risk through unnecessary journeys.

“This is not about falling at the last hurdle after the long race.”

Recent weeks have seen an increase in traffic on the roads as businesses began to open up.

Police have been giving advice around staying at home and, if that was not heeded, handing out fines.

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First Minister Arlene Foster (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

First Minister Arlene Foster (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

PA

First Minister Arlene Foster (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster paid tribute to the public for helping drive the R number rate of reproduction below one but said it was no time for complacency.

She warned: “The threat from coronavirus is no less than when we had to implement the lockdown.”

She added: “It kills when people start acting as if the threat is no longer with us.”

She said another wave of infection was to be expected.

The DUP leader added: “We need you to be on your guard against inadvertently triggering a spike.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill told the Stormont news conference on Friday three more people had lost their lives to Covid-19.

Evidence shows coronavirus lingers longer on indoor surfaces than outdoor.

She said meeting other family members indoors was still too risky.

“We are continually keeping that issue under review.

“We know that families want to be reunited and as soon as we can get to that point we will communicate that to you.”

There has been a further drop in the number of coronavirus-related deaths at care homes in Northern Ireland.

61 Covid-19-related deaths occurred during the week ending May 15, down from 80 in the previous week and 119 in the week before that, according to figures compiled by the Northern Ireland Statistical and Research Agency (Nisra).

Most (32) occurred in care homes, which represents a drop from 38 the previous week and 72 in the week before.

Of the remaining deaths, 27 were in hospitals, one in a hospice and one at a residential address.

PA