Police patrolling a park

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Police have been patrolling parks, where playgrounds have been closed during the lockdown

Reports of anti-social behaviour have increased substantially during the coronavirus outbreak, police have said.

In the last four weeks, there were 178,000 incidents across England and Wales – a rise of 59% on last year.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council, which published the figures, said the rise was likely linked to breaches of lockdown measures – with more than 3,200 fines issued in England.

Overall, crime fell 28% – with rape and burglary allegations down 37%.

The figures covered the four weeks to 12 April.

Martin Hewitt, chair of the NPCC, said it was not surprising that crime had dropped significantly given that pubs, bars and most shops were closed and people were staying at home.

Other figures showed that shoplifting plummeted by 54%, with serious assaults, robbery and car crime all down by 27%.

There were also reductions in 999 and 101 calls, as more people reported offences online.

However, the figures do not include fraud. Lynne Owens, director-general of the National Crime Agency, warned that criminals were exploiting the crisis by trying to sell Covid-19 testing kits and protection equipment.

“Fraudsters are playing on people’s fear,” she said.

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Media captionA BBC investigation has found online scams selling fake protective equipment and coronavirus tests

Ms Owens also said drug dealers were adapting their methods by wearing high-visibility jackets and posing as key workers and doing deals in supermarket car parks.

She said the NCA was “very alive” to the potential for rivalry between drug gangs because the wholesale and retail price of cocaine had risen.

Deputy Chief Constable Sara Glenn, who is head of enforcement for the NPCC during the lockdown, said in the past week there had been an increase in serious violence, which could be linked to addicts finding it harder to get drugs.

The NPCC said between 27 March and 13 April, police in England issued 3,203 fines, with a further 290 given to people in Wales over the bank holiday weekend.

More than 80% of the penalty notices were imposed on men, while 39 were mistakenly issued to children – aged 16 and 17 – who by law cannot be fined. The fines were rescinded.

Mr Hewitt said there was no evidence that the fines were being issued disproportionately to black and ethnic minority groups.

In total, 26 fines were imposed on people aged 65 to 100.

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