Life under lockdown is not only changing the way people live, but also how crime occurs. The good news is that this fundamental change will see a decrease in certain crimes – some areas have already seen recorded crime drop by as much as 20%. But there are worrying signs that some offenses like domestic violence and online fraud are likely to surge and that new offenses (like malicious coughing), are emerging too. With all the businesses closed worldwide, criminals are looking for new ways to sustain life.
Environmental criminology and crime science pays particular attention to crime opportunities and how they are affected by lifestyles, routine activities, and particular goods and services. For example, a person who goes out in the evening regularly, experiences more interpersonal crimes, like snatch-theft or an assault, while at the same time, their unguarded home is more vulnerable to burglary.
The biggest and most dramatic drop in crime has been in public places. There is no football hooliganism and no concentrations of crime at sporting venues, tourism hotspots, problem bars, schools, shopping areas, car parks, and entertainment districts, where crime used to be highly concentrated. These places are known in the trade vocabulary as “risky facilities”. Crime on public transport, around train and bus stations and against taxi drivers (and by them) has also declined massively.
There’s a new crime now, malicious coughing. There have been reports of people targeting members of the public, police, and paramedics randomly. Recent news said, “A man and a woman have already been jailed for six months and 12 weeks respectively in two separate cases.”
News of masks been stolen in Portland, Oregon, amid shortages for health care workers were hard. A Missouri man who was coughing told two store clerks he had a high fever. So, he was arrested after police said he threatened to give the employees coronavirus. People in Pennsylvania and Illinois were accused of similar crimes. Another one, Texas prosecutors brought charges against someone who falsely claimed on social media to have tested positive for COVID-19. There are limitless similar cases around the world when you search on the web.
There has been a spike in emails, texts, and phone calls soliciting donations for phony charity organizations and others claiming to represent the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) since the growing severity of the coronavirus outbreak. How to avoid these?
- Don’t respond to these messages.
- Don’t click on any links.
- Don’t provide any personal information.
The coronavirus lockdowns are producing many unanticipated side effects, including those upon crime. Police and policymakers need to move quickly to reinforce these crime reductions while anticipating and preventing new criminal opportunities. According to a new study of 1 million laid-off Norwegians over 15 years, out-of-work people commit 60% more property crimes such as theft, shoplifting, burglary, and vandalism in the year after losing work and have 20% more criminal charges than when employed.
You may also see a lower arrest rate in the weeks ahead because the police may be purposefully not making as many arrests. The police want to keep people out of jails, where viruses spread like wildfire and cause even more problems. And some countries have decided not to arrest people on charges like narcotics, theft, burglary, and vandalism. Now you may wonder whether a more relaxed justice system will encourage more crime.
The researchers suspect that layoff crime is even more prevalent in the U.S., but no U.S. data exists connecting individuals’ employment and crime data. Both the income and psychological effects of job loss are likely more severe in the U.S. Free time and psychological stressors such as frustration and financial worry can bend a person towards criminal activities.
Some new criminal activities are rearing their heads. Here are some crimes that seem to be growing as we settle into the third month of social distancing:
- Package theft
- Surges in the opioid epidemic
- Assault on medical workers and law enforcement (usually through coughing, spitting, or sneezing)
- Defying stay-at-home orders and restrictions on public gatherings
Some crimes that continue to be problematic during the pandemic
- Burglary of commercial businesses left vacant
- Domestic and family violence
- Vehicle theft
- Hate crimes (especially against Asian Americans)
- Financial scams
- Price gouging
According to worldhighways.com, A worrying increase in construction machinery theft has been noted in the UK since the introduction of the lockdown caused by the Corona Virus pandemic. Data available shows a 50% jump in theft of construction machines from UK sites. With so many construction sites shut down due to the lockdown, this has given thieves an opportunity to capitalize.
There’s another news from The Economic Times, while the rest of the world is grappling with Covid-19 shutdowns, thieves are taking advantage of the global pandemic to an opportunity to steal artwork. Yesterday, a Vincent Van Gogh painting – The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884 – was brazenly stolen in a raid on a Dutch museum closed due to the pandemic.
So some of the questions you could consider are:
- When people lose their paychecks, do they turn to crime more often?
- When people are at home more, does that deter crime?
- Will crime rates fall when police aren’t charging criminals the same way they used to?