Coronavirus: Islington and Camden’s top cop warns there’s been an ‘increase of businesses being broken into’ during pandemic

Ch Supt Raj Kohli. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

Ch Supt Raj Kohli. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey - Credit: Archant

Islington and Camden’s top cop warns there’s been an “increase of businesses being broken into” during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Islington and Camden’s top cop warns there’s been an “increase of businesses being broken into” during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Ch Supt Raj Kohli, who leads the central north basic command unit (BCU), has also addressed the mixed-feelings around new powers granted to police via the emergency Coronavirus Bill, saying he doesn’t want to live in a “police state” but people must abide by the rules.

These powers enable cops to detain someone suspected of being infectious, close non-essential businesses and restrict people’s right to move around or be in a gathering of more than two people.

Ch Supt Kohli told the Gazette: “What we will see is a lot of crime types will start to go down but we will see, potentially, a rise in other crime types. So what I would say to people who own businesses they have had to shut is just make sure your businesses are as crime-proofed as possible. There’s a feeling that domestic abuse calls might be more difficult as people are cooped up at home, and my message is, regardless of Covid, never ever suffer in silence. Tell us and we will come to you.”

He added: “There is an increase of businesses being broken in to but also we have charged a number of people recently for breaking-in and stealing stuff from businesses.”

Ch Supt Kohli says that less people being out and about makes it easier for cops to catch criminals. He added: “No one should be a victim of crime ever but for goodness sake the country’s in crisis let’s just stop it. There’s no good time to commit crime but doing it now is even worse.”

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Officers can use their use their new powers to enforce social distancing rules and stope people leaving the house “without reasonable excuse” or being in a gathering of more than two people

Cops can give people flouting these rules an on-the-spot fine of £60, reduced to £30 if paid within two weeks. People who persistently break the rules can be fined a maximum of £960. Ch Supt Kohli said: “We are about engaging with and educating people and enforcement is the last resort, generally. If I have to fine or arrest somebody I regard it as a failure of that person to understand how dangerous that situation is. I don’t celebrate, I’m disappointed. I get that it’s hard, I really do but this is not the Second World War or the First World War, we are not talking about the spirits of the blitz. We are asking them to not go out unnecessarily for a few weeks.”

Some police forces across the country have been criticised for misusing or over-stepping these new powers, for instance Derbyshire Police followed dog walkers in the Peak District with a drone.

Addressing the general criticism, Ch Supt Kohli said: “If people spent as much time analysing and assessing the dangers of Covid as opposed to analysing and trying to find get outs for the new legislation the world would be a better place. It does irk me that some people are spending so much time trying to find loopholes in the legislation.

“I don’t want this to be a police state. Cops don’t want to fine or arrest people for Covid cases, we are much more interested in catching burglars and perpetrators of domestic abuse. That’s what gets us out of bed in the morning, not catching normally law-abiding citizens.”

“We will get through this and we will get through it a lot more quickly if some people are more selfless and less selfish. I would like to really pay tribute to our NHS colleagues from the ambulance through to the doctors and nurses and the clears making sure our hospitals are open for business, total unsung heroes.”

He says some officers in the central north BCU are off work because they or their family members have Covid-19 symptoms but added: “We are relatively good. We are one of the least affected, so we have got staff off but we’re also having staff coming back.”