COVID-19 and lockdowns are not only having a toll on our daily lives but are also causing a noticeable shift in the type of criminal activities.
With people locked amidst the walls of their homes, there is a significant change in the techniques and statistics of crimes globally. There has been a roughly 20% drop in the crime rates, however, this comes along with signs of an increase in domestic violence and cyber frauds. For a crime to take place the contact of the criminal with its potential target is imperative, since lockdown has changed our movement activities, there is a similarly dramatic change in the distribution of criminal activities.
The shortage in the supply of face masks and medical equipment has made them the new targets for theft. There have been examples where thieves have been found stealing Oxygen canister from hospitals, raids on food banks, scams, and counterfeit goods relating to coronavirus have been observed. Staying indoors will also cause an increase in child abuse. As per the statistics of 2016, 40% of the child assault and abuse took place at homes by mothers and fathers. Now, the open of liquor shops and stores in Delhi has a probability of worsening the situation, for both children as well as women.
The pandemic has resulted in diverting the entire attention of the policymakers and police towards finding its cure. This has provided the criminal group to enhance their scope in illegal markets dealing in drugs and trafficking. Certain reports are even suggestive of the expenditure by the criminal markets on this disruption. A plane was sighted landing at Osvaldo Vieira Airport on 18th March – after the airports have been shut for preventing the spread of pandemic – it raised strong suspicions that the closure was being used as a guide to land planes carrying cocaine.
With the increase in the demand for medical supplies, the sale of counterfeit medical supplies has surged from the very start of the outbreak, as has been suggested by the smuggling and theft of medical supplies. Authorities in Iran, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan have intercepted attempts to smuggle essential stocks of medical face masks and hand sanitizer. In Italy, police have seized counterfeit masks in several regions. Adverts for masks have emerged on dark-web forums, while hundreds of sites on the open web market discounted masks that may not be legitimate, or even exist.
With no permission to go out, people have been spending most of their time online this has lead to a promotion of illicit business, especially those which are cyber oriented. A number of cyber phishing scams have already emerged, where trustworthy sources, such as the World Health Organisation have been hacked to gather information or spread malware content. INTERPOL has issued a warning against frauds whereby people are tricked into buying non-existent medical supplies, making payments intended for medical care into accounts controlled by criminals. It is estimated that millions of dollars have already been lost by the victims of such scams.
With a greater amount of free time and lockdown the online porn industry will undergo advancement. Pornhub has already made its premium version free, while this site is legal, the increased demand will provoke the criminal groups to trick and exploit sex workers, drug users, and other vulnerable people. The FBI has issued a warning that children who home-school, play games online, and use social media during school closures may be targeted by sexual predators, as they spend extended time online. Other online scams targeting the economic vulnerabilities of people such as lotteries and fraudulent investment schemes are also coming into play.
Indoor criminal activities have got a significant increase during the lockdown. In India, the National Commission for Women had received a total of 587 complaints from 23rd March to 16th April, out of which 239 are of domestic violence. According to data shared by the NCW, 123 cases of domestic violence were received between February 27 and March 22. In the last 25 days, the commission received 239 more such complaints. This locking of the abuser and victim in the same home has resulted in a steep rise in Domestic violence cases in India. The UN chief António Guttered called for measures to address the “horrifying global surge in domestic violence.” In one of his tweets he mentioned, “peace is not just the absence of war. Many women under lockdown for #COVID19 face violence where they should be safest: in their own homes.”
Research conducted by WHO reveals disturbing details regarding the physical, sexual, reproductive, and mental violence phased by women, during these times. women who experience physical or sexual abuse are twice as likely to have an abortion, and that experience nearly doubles their possibility of falling into depression or facing other mental health-related issues. In some regions, they are 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV, and evidence exists that sexually assaulted women are 2.3 times more likely to have alcohol disorders. 87,000 women were intentionally killed in 2017, and more than half were killed by intimate partners or family members.
UNFPA has responded by working with trustworthy organizations and religious leaders to raise awareness of the heightened risks of gender-based violence during the pandemic. “We need to ensure that measures are in place to prevent, protect and mitigate the consequences of all forms of violence, stigma, and discrimination, especially those against women and girls during quarantine and self-isolation processes and procedures,” said Visare Mujko-Nimani, UNFPA’s head of office in Kosovo, as per the UN news.
Feature Image Credits: Europol