The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us. And it has had a major effect not only on crime, but also on police policies and procedures.
As we explained in our blog earlier this month (Domestic Violence and COVID-19), there has been a change in the level of certain crimes and in the behavior of the police since the outbreak of the coronavirus. Those changes include:
- An increase in domestic violence calls to the police in many cities.
- Fewer police visible in areas where they formerly could be seen in large concentrations.
- More police assigned to enforcing lockdown orders, leading to more police in rural areas, and fewer in the cities.
- Increased theft of water for agricultural purposes, and less for drinking in areas where water is in short supply.
- Increases in the cultivation of illegal drug crops due to less patrols.
- A possible shortage in some areas of synthetic opioids, accompanied by an increase in the production of methamphetamines.
- An increase in scams and fraud, many preying upon fears of the virus.
- Fewer arrests for non-violent and minor criminal activities.
According to the Brookings Institution, the pandemic is having an effect not only on the practices of police forces around the country and the world, but also on the behavior of criminals. Many have migrated to online activities, but there have also been changes in the structure of criminal gangs, some of which have been decimated by the coronavirus itself.
Criminal Groups Providing Public Health Responses to COVID-19
Outside the United States, surprisingly enough, criminal groups have in some areas become the only sources of public health responses to the coronavirus. Examples include:
- In the slums of India and Pakistan, they represent the only source of clean water.
- They distribute food in many slum areas.
- In Rio de Janeiro, while the government has been accused of criminal negligence in its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, drug gangs have imposed rules relating to social distancing and quarantines.
However you look at it, the pandemic has changed the world we live in. White hats and black hats are often exchanged, and those we look to for guidance and support may fall short – sometimes woefully – in providing the protection we have come to rely upon from our leaders.
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