The Office for National Statistics has released crime statistics for forces across the UK.
Statistics for the year ending 31 December 2020 show Merseyside Police has seen a 3.4% decrease in overall crime compared to 2019. The Force continues to have one of the highest detection rates for crimes across the country.
In Merseyside, there was a 18.1% decrease in burglary offences, resulting in 1,657 fewer offences than the same period last year, while vehicle crime decreased by 25.8%.
Drug offences increased by 14.1% in Merseyside during 2020 as part of the Force's approach to tackling serious organised crime, County Lines and the many arrests and drug seizures made via Operation Venetic.
Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Ian Critchley said: "There is no doubt that Covid-19 has had a significant impact on changes in crime during 2020.
We know the pandemic has caused significant human tragedy for our communities. During the last year, our officers and staff have – like many people – had to change the way they work, and have taken on the additional challenge of policing coronavirus restrictions alongside our existing responsibilities.
“They have recognised the role they have been called upon to protect the communities of Merseyside from the virus, often in the face of incredibly difficult circumstances. Throughout this they have also continued to tackle crimes which concern our communities, particularly targeting serious and organised crime. As such we are pleased to see reductions in some of the areas we know really matter to our communities due to their impact, and we have continued to ensure we detect a higher percentage of these crimes.
"We know how important tackling violence against women and girls is. And while it's positive to see a national and local decrease in sexual offences, which saw 33 fewer crimes in Merseyside last year, we know that there is still more to do to tackle this really personally impactive crime, and we will continue to encourage anyone who has been a victim to please come forward and not suffer in silence.
“As the night time economy across Merseyside reopens, we want to ensure women can enjoy a night out safely and without fear, and have recently set up a new proactive policing response, Operation Empower: aimed at preventing sexual violence within the city centre and town centres with a night time economy. This will see officers tasked with identifying those who are displaying signs of predatory behaviour and disrupting them.
“If a woman does fall victim to sexual violence, we and our partners will continue to investigate and treat those who have been preyed upon with dignity and respect.
"Restrictions on people's mobility, routine, and social interactions have had a huge impact on some crime rates. The reduction in burglary, shoplifting and other offences has allowed our officers to carry out preventative and proactive targeted work on our streets to disrupt criminals who continued to operate. As a result, in 2020 we increased our stop searches in Merseyside by 55% - an increase of 16,237 on the previous year, resulting in positive outcomes for stop and searches increasing by 23% from 2019.
"Operation Target has resulted in us identifying and bringing to justice a 4% increase in people carrying offensive weapons, compared to a 5.3% decrease across England and Wales. Our dedicated week of action at the end of last month via Operation Sceptre saw us recover 61 knives and arrest 15 people for possession of a bladed article. Officers are also visiting a number of schools and retailers to educate them on the issue and help prevent such incidents.
"Using stop search in a professional and targeted way is a critical tactic for us in reducing homicide and serious violence, and we are pleased that violence with injury has reduced by over 10%. In addition firearms discharges last year were at their lowest for over 20 years. We know this a really important area for our communities and we have been grateful to members of the public for continuing to work with us to develop our approach to stop and search, in order that we can use it in a way which gives confidence to the communities we serve.
"Our Operation Venetic targeted response to organised crime and drug supply has seen 120 arrests and 89 charges since it began in July 2020. Just this month (May 2021) we have arrested and charged nine individuals with Class A drug supply, importation and firearms offences.
On Friday 30 April alone, a joint operation with North Wales police to tackle County Lines drug dealing and child criminal exploitation saw 14 people arrested for various offences, including possession with intent to supply and drug driving. Last year we arrested over 700 offenders for county lines, closed down over 150 drug lines and protected over 250 vulnerable adults and children.
"In Merseyside, Operation Castle is our ongoing response to burglary - set up to put anyone suspected of burglary before the courts. Since we began, offenders have been sentenced to more than 300 years in prison, and we have seen burglary offences decrease year on year.
"One thing that hasn't changed in Merseyside is the commitment, professionalism and dedication of our officers and staff, who have worked tirelessly day in, day out alongside other key workers during the past year. They have been on the front line throughout the pandemic - putting our communities first and protecting the people of Merseyside, who are at the heart of everything we do."