Since the nation-wide quarantine began in early March, strict regulations have been put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Initially, the government banned outside gatherings of over 500 people. Less than a week ago, these restrictions became more strict, having no outside gatherings of more than 2 people. As well as these restrictions, the government has been encouraging social isolation and social distancing, and have implemented a hefty fine for any rule breakers.
As well as Australia, major cities all over the world have seen identical regulations and a momentous drop in crime as a result. In Chicago, there has been a sudden drop of 20% of all crimes. Some areas of the UK and both Los Angeles and New York City have seen a similar drop. In fact, from the 16th to 22nd of March 2020, NYC has seen an 85% drop in murders compared to the same period last year, and an overall drop of 5.8% of all crime.
Australia has not been excluded from these crime drops. Brisbane has seen a massive crime plummet during the first week of almost total isolation. On March 1st, 435 offences were reported to the police in the Brisbane region. Nearly four weeks later, a mere 168 offences were reported, making March 28th the lowest number of offences for a single day in the past month. The primary incidents over this period were thefts, excluding unlawful entry. The Wide Bay has seen similar changes, with offences against other people dropping, and offences against properties rising.
However, this worldwide drop in crimes may just be the calm before the storm. As a result of COVID-19, many businesses have closed or reduced their operating hours. When businesses shut, either permanently or temporarily, the number of offences involving shops and businesses will inevitably decrease.
Ian Leavers, the Queensland Police Union President, believes this is the case.
The reality is that if anything, this is the calm before the storm and simply a shift in crime into different categories.
This spark of new crime trends has already begun. In NYC, the number of car thefts has increased by over 50%, rising from 68 in March last year to 103 this month.
As shutdowns begin affecting people’s ability to earn money, no doubt many people may consider committing desperate acts just to get by.
There has also been a rise in people trying to take advantage of Coronavirus and benefit from the pandemic through fraudulent methods. Malware and phishing scams have been abundant, exploiting the fear of innocent Australians. For example, groups of people have been selling counterfeit medical equipment, including substandard hand sanitiser and ineffective protective masks. These groups have also been promoting coronavirus treatment, even though the World Health Organisation states that any vaccine or treatment will not be available for another 12-18 months.
There’s no way of telling what new crime trends will emerge if Australia enforces further measures, or what will happen after COVID-19. Either way, it’s important to stay up to date with the latest reliable information from the World Health Organisation and Australian Government and be aware of the latest phishing scams.