The crime situation in Hong Kong has improved greatly, according to police who cited a drop of up to 80 per cent in protest-related offences this year, despite the city recording a threefold increase in robberies. The force said in a statement on Wednesday that compared with the second half of last year when the city was rocked by civil unrest sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill, there was a significant drop – between 30 and 80 per cent – in protest crimes in the first half of this year. But overall crime figures rose by 27.9 per cent, with reports of robberies surging 3.2 times to 186 cases in the first six months of the year, up from 44 for the same period in 2019. The number of burglaries also rose 47.1 per cent to 1,156, according to police. But the force said the monthly rate for robberies had dropped from a peak of 55 cases in February to 23 cases in June. “One hundred and seven robbery cases were detected with 197 people arrested in the first half of 2020, representing a detection rate of 57.5 per cent, which was higher than the overall robbery detection rate of 36.7 per cent last year,” the statement said. Police cite security law in arresting activist on Yuen Long attack anniversary A police source said criminals took advantage of the city’s social unrest to carry out crimes such as burglary and robbery as a fifth of the force’s 30,000 officers were assigned to the anti-riot squad to tackle the social unrest. He said he believed reports of such crimes would drop because the scale of the protests had shrunk and about 4,000 anti-riot officers had returned to normal duties last week. “Police will step up patrols and conduct various operations to cope with these crimes,” the source said. In the statement, police explained it was difficult within a short span of time to restore law and order to the level before the protests. The negative impact of protest-related violence had not waned, police said, adding that public disobedience was growing, on top of the worsening economic situation. The force also said mask-wearing as the Covid-19 pandemic continued to ravage the city enabled criminals to conceal their identities more easily. Between January and June this year, police handled 32, 345 reports of crimes, an increase of 27.9 per cent compared with the 25,295 in the same period last year – a record low for Hong Kong since 1977 when half-year statistics were kept. After police’s strict enforcement of the law, the current situation in Hong Kong has been greatly improved when compared with the scenes of frequent violence more than half a year ago Police “The increase was attributable to crimes arising from [extradition bill] incidents, including arson, criminal damage, offences against public order, possession of offensive weapons and possession of unlawful instruments,” the force said in its statement. “After police’s strict enforcement of the law, the current situation in Hong Kong has been greatly improved when compared with the scenes of frequent violence taking place over the territory more than half a year ago.” Hong Kong police insiders say end of US training programmes a ‘non-issue’ Latest figures show the number of offences against public order, such as rioting and unlawful assembly, rose to 203 cases in the first half of this year, an increase of 7.1 times compared with that over the same period last year. The anti-government movement had erupted in June. The number of arson cases also rose by 85.2 per cent to 287 year on year, while reports of criminal damage increased by 38.8 per cent to 3,369. But the statement said when compared with the situation in the second half of last year, when the social unrest was at its peak, there was a big drop in protest-related crimes. Police also recorded 8,129 cases of deception in the first half of this year, compared with 3, 855 in the same period last year. The increase was mainly attributed to surgical mask scams when the coronavirus crisis gripped the city in late January. Authorities recorded 2,292 cases with losses totalling HK$70.22 million.