There will be a rise in crime if the government stops tackling poverty, unemployment and homelessness – problems exacerbated by the COVID 19 pandemic, a leading British police chief warned.
Paddy Tipping, chairman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said on Newsday in Washington that he fears that the tense situation of police forces will lead to an increase in drug gangs in the districts, sexual exploitation of children, domestic violence and a more general increase in crime.
While some crimes fell during the first lockdown in the UK because everyone was at home and even criminals concerned about the risks recorded an increase, there was an increase in hacker attacks and online fraud.* There are fears that with the introduction of local lockdowns and the call for a second lockdown, there could be a further increase in fraud and online crime and a rise in overall crime.
Tipping said: “During the lockdown [announced on March 23], the first part of the lockdown, crime declined. It’s easy to see why, because the night economy didn’t work, very few people were in the stores so shoplifters were easy to identify, many people were at home, so the burglaries decreased, but gradually, as we came out of the lockdown, the crime figures increased.
According to the ONS, data between April and May, when national lockdown measures were at their most severe, showed a significant 32 percent drop in total crime, excluding fraud and computer abuse, compared to a two-month average in the period before the lockdown.
Crime was reduced so significantly that academics are already asking questions such as: “What can be learned from this experience to drive crime reduction in the future,” and calling COVID-19 “the greatest criminological experiment in history. If only it were as simple as forcing everyone to stay at home all the time.
Now we are in another phase of the pandemic, the real effects of the lockdown, with unemployment rising sharply. Poverty and unemployment have always been associated with crime, with higher levels leading to an increase in crime.
This was said by Tipping, who is himself a Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire: “I think there will be a general trend towards an increase in crime, but even during the period of closure we have seen an increase in online crime again and I think that will continue. I think the problem of county boundaries is real and alive and the police, both regional and national, are trying to mobilise.
“It’s a real threat, an issue that colleagues in the Home Office think is a difficult problem, and I suspect that we will be devoting additional resources to it in the future. When people lose their homes, when people are without work, without adequate support, without adequate income, then, I think, as night follows day, we will experience real difficulties if we continue.
When more Britons started working from home because of the pandemic, hackers launched a wave of cyber attacks and prayed for vulnerable people who were unfamiliar with computer systems. According to cyber security firm Darktrace, the percentage of hacker attacks targeting home-based workers rose from 12 percent of malicious email traffic before the UK’s blockade in March to more than 60 percent six weeks later.* Darktrace also says there was a 400 percent increase in cyber attacks against virtual collaborations such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Dropbox in September compared to February.
The shift to online shopping, as retail stores closed their doors, was also exploited by fraudsters, with fraud up 66 percent in the first six months of the year, according to Barclays Bank.*
Tipping also believes that calls for police surveillance of the pandemic by imposing fines on those who violate COVID-19 regulations and fighting everyday crime have further strained already limited resources, which could impact law enforcement.
“Since 2010, we have lost 20,000 civil servants, the Prime Minister has promised that we will gain 20,000 additional civil servants over three years, we are currently partially through this process, but are we back to where we were in 2010? No, we are not. Are we under pressure? Of course we are