The first detailed analysis of enforcement of the Covid-19 regulations in London, U.K. has established that there is a strong correlation to hot weather and holiday periods contributing to people being out and breaching the legislation in the earlier part of lockdown and that the first month of the new legislation saw the most enforcement activity.
Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Mark Simmons, said: “From the start, policing this new legislation has been complex and I’m proud of how both the public and police in London have responded.
“Our aim has been to protect London, and not to unnecessarily criminalize where we can avoid it. We have seen, overall, good compliance when we have intervened, meaning in most cases the need for issuing a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) or arrest has been unnecessary. I hope Londoners will be reassured as a result of the low volume of Covid-19 related enforcement that we have been using the new powers only when we have absolutely needed to.
“We have seen very few arrests of people where they have only been in breach of the Covid-19 regulations and not been committing any other offences which further demonstrates the effectiveness of our approach.
“However, as well as playing our part in protecting London from the spread of Covid-19, throughout this period the Met has been determined to remain proactive and target those involved in violence and wider criminality. We have seen police proactively undertaking patrols and targeting crime hotspots. Where people have been arrested for another criminal offense whilst also breaching the regulations, they have also been arrested for this breach thus increasing the apparent number of arrests for Covid-19 regulation breaches.”
The Metropolitan Police has adopted a proportionate approach to the enforcement of breaches of the Covid-19 legislation from the outset. It has set out to engage, explain and then encourage people to adhere to the regulations. It is only when this approach has been unsuccessful that enforcement has been necessary.
Officers have reported that in most interactions once they have explained that an individual or group were in breach they have followed police advice without the need for the use of enforcement powers.
This approach explains why such a low number of FPN’s (973), and an even lower number of arrests for a breach of the regulations alone (36) have been seen in comparison to the approximate nine million population of London.
Alongside this approach the Metropolitan Police has implemented a rigorous quality assurance process to monitor the use of FPNs and to ensure they were issued appropriately and correctly.
Due to overall FPN and arrest numbers being so low this is the first detailed analysis that it has been able to undertake looking at data over an almost two month period to understand some of the trends.
The vast majority of arrests for a breach of the regulations were made in circumstances where an individual was also committing or suspected of committing another criminal offense (such as possession of drugs). They were arrested for the breach in these situations as a secondary measure.
Whilst the volume of FPNs and arrests across London has varied from area to area, there has been a general correlation against the locations which were priority areas for policing, such as high violence areas. It is of note that during this period officers have undertaken significant proactive policing activity targeting violence, drugs, robbery, domestic abuse, speeding and other offences to keep communities safe.
Where enforcement has been necessary there has been a correlation with weather in the early part of lockdown, age and gender.
- For both FPNs and arrests young men make up the biggest offending group.
- In total more white people received FPNs or were arrested than other individual ethnic groups.
- However, when compared with the composition of the resident population, higher proportions of those in black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups were issued with FPNs or arrested across London as a whole.
The reasons for this are likely to be complex and reflect a range of factors. This includes interactions between the areas subject to significant proactive policing activity targeting crime hot-spots and both the variation in the age-profile and geographical distribution of ethnic groups in London.