The Changing Face of Global Crime during Covid-19 Pandemic
Udupi: Statistics speak for themselves. El Salvador, dubious for having one of the world’s highest murder rates, recorded ZERO murder in the four days of March. The crime rate in Italy, one of the worst affected countries in the mayhem of Coronavirus, dropped by 64% between March 1st and 22nd compared with the same period in 2019. The Italian figures also showed a drop of 44% in domestic violence. Coming to Asia, in Karachi, surprisingly no incident of car theft was reported in the eight days of March. This is indeed noteworthy considering that Karachi counts among Asia’s most crime-ridden cities. The world policing body Interpol is of the view that crime rates, that of theft and various kinds of street crimes, has come down drastically during the pandemic.
Of course, not all crime is reported. When breaking laws takes place indoors, it is difficult to get hold of it. It seems that new scams are already proliferating. According to a report from South Africa, fraudsters are sending mails to people that collectors from SA Reserve Bank are visiting every household to recover banknotes in case they had been contaminated with Covid-19. There has been a constant upsurge in the sale of fake and substandard drugs. There is also a seizure of dangerous pharmaceuticals worth $ 14 million by Interpol recently. This operation involved police forces of 90 countries.
The world-wide scarcity of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has opened up new avenues for the crime. The lack of strict controlling measures by the governments and the inability to have face-to-face meetings with customers and suppliers are the major reasons for frauds to flourish in this area. Ransomware attacks have become common in Europe. In a recent case, the University Hospital in Brno, the Czech Republic, was hit by ransomware. (Here, the target is prevented from accessing a crucial file until a ransom is paid.) Urgent surgical operations had to be postponed and patients were redirected to other hospitals.
The organised crime thrives mostly on the money from drugs deals. Its global business estimated to be worth $ 500 billion has been disrupted. For many large cartels and connected syndicates, the lockdown is not a big problem. It is reported that the opium harvest in Afghanistan which supplies nearly all the world’s heroin has been largely unaffected. The closure of pharmaceutical plants in China threatened the supply of precursors used in the production of methamphetamines, but the interruption was temporary.
Prolonged economic depression will lead to high unemployment rates, paving the way for more crimes. It is the need of the hour for all governments worldwide to revive their economies by creating more job opportunities, providing financial incentives to industries, boosting the morale of businesses and ensuring that the common man doesn’t suffer from hunger and insecurity. The challenge is a familiar one. It will take greater will to weather unfamiliar storms.
With inputs from The Economist (USA)
Author: Gurudatt Somayaji H. (Principal of Surya Chaitanya Global Academy, Kuthyar-Udupi)