Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on crime

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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted crime and illicit economies such as organised crime, terrorism, street crime, online crime, illegal markets and smuggling, human and wildlife trafficking, slavery, robberies and burglaries.


The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime has stated in a policy brief in March 2020 that while understanding the long-term impact at these early stages of the pandemic is difficult, some things are clear: the pandemic has caused a decrease in some organized-criminal activities, while providing new opportunities in other areas, causing a change in the "organized-criminal economy" that may be long term. [1] [2] The report states that some criminal organisations could take advantage of the situation by expanding activities, with a possibility of "the emergence of criminal groups as suppliers and 'partners' of the state in maintaining order". [2]


COVID-19 caused a reduction in many types of crime around the world. [3] A report by USA Today on 4 April 2020 showed a decrease in criminal incidents (in America) since 15 March in nineteen out of twenty police agencies examined. [4] However, the report also noted an increase in domestic violence. [4] Some police departments are intentionally arresting fewer people to prevent potential spread of coronavirus in jails; tackling the issues in alternative ways rather than making "physical arrests". [4] Associated Press reported that in Chicago drug arrests fell 42% since the lockdowns, compared with the same period in 2019. [5] Overall, crime in Chicago declined 10% following the outbreak of the pandemic. [3] This decrease is being seen across cities globally as restrictions were increased to contain the virus. [3]

A detailed examination for one UK police force found variation in the onset of change by crime type when compared to 5-year averages. [6] Some types of crime declined immediately from ‘global pandemic’ announcement from the World Health Organisation on 11 March 2020, others later. [6] Incidence of assault was inelastic but responsive to reduced workplace mobility.

Following an increase in movement restrictions across nations, there are fewer people on the streets, causing a decrease in street crime. [7] And with a larger population staying indoors at home, thefts and residential burglaries have decreased. [8] [9] In Colombia and El Salvador, following the lockdowns, many types of crime saw a decrease. [10] In Peru, crime levels fell 84% in March. [3] Alleged Serbian drug lord Dragoslav Kosmajac died of COVID-19. [11] Karachi, one of "Asia's most crime-ridden cities", saw an entire week in March go by without any car thefts. [12] In New York City, grand larceny declined by over 50% in April compared to the same period last year; however, the city saw a rise in commercial burglaries despite the overall fall of ~29% in major crimes. [13] In Mexico, amid the pandemic, some criminal groups were seen handing out food supplies, while in other places in Mexico some criminals were facing unemployment. [14] In Australia, border police found methamphetamine (crystal meth/ ice) being smuggled into the country in hand sanitizer bottles. [15]

Counterfeiting and fraud

Counterfeiting and fraud directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic has also been uncovered. [16] In the beginning of March 2020, over 34,000 counterfeit surgical masks were seized by law enforcement authorities worldwide as part of Operation Pangea, [17] supported by Interpol and Europol. [16] Police in India seized thousands of fake N95 masks, raided shops selling overpriced masks and sanitizers, and initiated a case against hoarders of personal protective equipment (PPE). [18] [19] [20] In the United States, individuals were arrested after impersonating doctors and demanding payments for treatment. [21]

Operation Stolen Promise was enacted with aid from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Food and Drug Administration, the US Postal Inspection Service, the US Secret Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Five Eyes Law Enforcement Working Group, an intelligence coalition formed by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The operation investigated and seized shipments of "mislabeled, fraudulent, unauthorized, or prohibited" COVID-19-related items. [22]


With more people spending more time online, cyber crime has increased. [23] With work from home increasing, more and more corporate data is being accessed from homes that may not have the same level of security as office systems. [24] The World Health Organization published a cyber security notice warning people of fraudsters imitating WHO [25] employees. [26]

Another cyber fraud in America resulted in money that was meant for the unemployed being redirected to fraudulent accounts. [27] The scale of it involves millions of dollars and it appears that the cyber-criminals are Nigerian. [28]

According to government data, one in three workers in the UK have been working from home due to lockdown following the spread of COVID-19, which has resulted in an increase in the cyber-attacks on employees. Reportedly, the lack of knowledge about cyber-attacks and cyber-security has been claimed as a prime reason behind rising cyber-crime in the UK during the pandemic. [29]

Domestic violence

Amid the reported global increase in domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations called for a domestic violence "ceasefire". [30]

In Peru, the number of women reported missing has surged from five per day from before COVID-19 to eight during the lock-downs. In total, 915 women in Peru were reported missing and feared dead during the three months quarantine. [31]

Hate crimes

An intelligence report compiled by the FBI's Houston branch warned against the likely increase of hate crime incidents against Asian Americans, based on the assumption that a portion of the US public associate the pandemic with China and Asian American populations. They also referenced multiple incidents of hate crimes already perpetrated across the country such as three Asian American family members stabbed by an individual who claimed that the family was Chinese and spreading the virus. [32]

Terrorist attacks

In its magazine Al-Naba , ISIL recommended that its members exploit the pandemic in order to carry out terrorist attacks. Some extremists regard the virus as being divine punishment for human sins, both in the West and in Muslim countries. The International Crisis Group said that the pandemic would harm international counterterrorism efforts. [33]

In April in India, an advisory was circulated among Delhi police staff of a potential ISIL attack on police personnel in the field, in the form of a lone wolf attack or "stabbing, firing or hitting by vehicles". [34] Between January and May 2020, Indian security forces conducted 27 counterterrorism operations in Jammu and Kashmir in which more than 64 terrorists were killed. [35] Out of these, at least 18 were killed during the COVID-19 lockdown in India. [36] In the first week of May, five Indian Army special forces para commandos were killed by terrorists. [37] Riyaz Naikoo, a commander of the terrorist organization Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, in his last audio message in April 2020, told his followers to follow health safety guidelines that health experts were sharing during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was killed shortly after. [38]

Also in May a series of attacks in Afghanistan resulted in the deaths of 56 people. The targets included a hospital's maternity ward and a funeral, resulting in the deaths of babies, hospital staff, and people at the funeral. [39] [40]

Use of COVID-19 as a weapon

A railway worker from London contracted COVID-19 and died after a man assaulted her and a coworker. The man said he had the virus and proceeded to spit and cough in the women's faces before running away. [41] Police responding to a domestic incident in Durham, England, were spat on by a teenager who shouted at officers that he hoped he had COVID-19; he was charged with assaulting an emergency worker. [42] Between April 1 and June 6, 2020, the Irish police were purposefully spat or coughed on by individuals on 93 occasions, causing the department to increase their use of spit hoods by 70%. [43] [44] On April 24, 2021, Spanish police arrested a man suspected of infecting 22 people, eight directly and 14 indirectly, with the virus, saying he made no efforts to quarantine himself or wear a facemask despite showing symptoms and having done a test. [45]

In the United States, multiple police departments documented individuals coughing or spitting on responding officers and saying that they had COVID-19. Charges that could be filed against these individuals range from second-degree assault or terrorist threatening. [46] A New Jersey woman spat on a police officer and told responding officers that she was positive for COVID-19 while they were arresting her. [47] Similar cases were reported in Florida, [48] Colorado, [49] Michigan, [50] Ohio, [51] and other states. [a 1]

In India, the Tablighi Jamaat religious event hosted by an Islamic missionary group became the country's largest super-spreader, resulting in various type of criminal charges being filed against the attendees for not heeding lockdown restrictions. [52] [53] More than 800 foreigners who attended the event were tracked down and their visas blacklisted. [54] Indian media reported that those who were quarantined by the government spat on healthcare personnel among other things, [55] [56] [57] resulting in numerous charges under the Indian Penal Code. [58] The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, in a television interview, said that "to hide a disease which is infectious is definitely a crime. And this crime has been done by those associated with the Tablighi Jamaat". The National Security Act and murder charges were filed against some of the Tablighi Jamaat attendees. [59]


In New Delhi, India, new guidelines were circulated among the police with relation to policing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 11-page order included guidelines such as "maintaining six feet distance from the victim at a crime spot" and "sanitizing weapons". [60] Israel allowed its domestic security agency to secretly collect cellphone data to track carriers of coronavirus. The same technology was being used for counterterrorism and had not been disclosed publicly before its implementation for COVID-19. [61]

In Italy and Spain, there has been a redeployment of carabinieri and military troops, respectively. [62] The pandemic has also impacted the criminal justice system. [63] In the United Kingdom, as part of contingency plans, murder investigations may be limited due to the additional workload the pandemic has created. [64] [65] Brazil has put anti-slavery enforcement operations on indefinite hold. [66] [67]

The pandemic has added to the workload of various police agencies. Acknowledging the increased workload, Polish police lightheartedly wrote in a tweet on 19 March, "Please stop all criminal activities until further notice", a message that was directed at criminals, adding, "we will appreciate the expected cooperation related to refraining from committing crimes". [68] In the Indian state of Bihar, an additional director general of police admitted that the police were more focused on enforcing the lockdown, but that policing was also being done, thereby increasing their workload significantly. [69]

The pandemic caused a disruption to various transnational operations such as a long-planned joint operation by six countries (Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime against organized crime and drug traffickers in the region. [70] A reduction in legal cross-border traffic and restrictions on international air traffic made long-distance smuggling more difficult. [8]

There has also been impact based on the potential for law enforcement officials to make contact with individuals confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19, although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the immediate health risk to be low. In the case of contact with an individual with COVID-19, CDC recommends that law enforcement officials follow the same guidelines as emergency medical technicians. [71]

Judicial systems

The Crown Prosecution Service of United Kingdom has advised out of court disposals for less serious crimes. [72] In the United States, the Sixth Amendment's right to counsel has been reduced because of the pandemic situation. [73]

Governments in Iran and Afghanistan have reduced the number of prisoners to limit the spread of the virus. [62] The Supreme Court of India directed all Indian state governments to consider releasing some prisoners, resulting in as many as 34,000 being temporarily released. [74] [75] The United States and Indonesia also released prisoners. [76]

See also


  1. While there are multiple incidents for some states, only one will be linked per state.

Related Research Articles

Tablighi Jamaat Islamic missionary movement

Tablighi Jamaat is a transnational Sunni Islamic missionary movement that focuses on exhorting Muslims and encouraging fellow members to return to practising their religion as per the Islamic prophet Muhammad, particularly in matters of ritual, dress and personal behaviour. The organisation is estimated to have between 12 to 80 million adherents worldwide, with the majority living in South Asia; their presence is attested in 150 countries, whereas other estimates attest an approximate number between 180 and 200 countries. It has been deemed as "one of the most influential religious movements in 20th-century Islam."

COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan Ongoing COVID-19 viral pandemic in Pakistan

The COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan is part of the ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. The virus was confirmed to have reached Pakistan on 26 February 2020, when two cases were recorded. On 18 March 2020, cases had been registered in all four provinces, the two autonomous territories, and Islamabad Capital Territory, and by 17 June, each district in Pakistan had recorded at least one confirmed case of COVID-19.

The first case of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Indian state of Karnataka was confirmed on 8 March 2020. Two days later, the state became the first in India to invoke the provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, which are set to last for a year, to curb the spread of the disease. As of 30 May 2021, Karnataka have 2587827 confirmed cases and 28679 deaths. with 2217117 recovered cases and 342010 active cases.

COVID-19 pandemic in Maharashtra Ongoing COVID-19 viral pandemic in Maharashtra, India

The first case of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Indian state of Maharashtra was confirmed on 9 March 2020.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on religion Impact of COVID-19 on religion

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted religion in various ways, including the cancellation of the worship services of various faiths and the closure of Sunday schools, as well as the cancellation of pilgrimages, ceremonies and festivals. Many churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples have offered worship through livestream amidst the pandemic.

COVID-19 pandemic in Uttar Pradesh Ongoing COVID-19 viral pandemic in Uttar Pradesh, India

COVID-19 Pandemic spread to Uttar Pradesh in March 2020. While the World Health Organization praised the UP government for its contact tracing efforts, there were several other issues in its management of the pandemic, including under reportage of cases by the government, vaccine shortages and dismal conditions of COVID-19 hospitals.

COVID-19 pandemic in Delhi Ongoing COVID-19 viral pandemic in Delhi, India

The first case of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Indian capital of Delhi was reported on 2 March 2020. Delhi has the sixth-highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in India, after Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. The total number of cases reported as of 9 May 2021, is 1,323,567 consisting of 19,344 deaths and 1,217,991 who have recovered.

COVID-19 pandemic in West Bengal Ongoing COVID-19 viral pandemic in West Bengal, India

The COVID-19 pandemic was first confirmed in the Indian state of West Bengal on 17 March 2020 in Kolkata. The Health and Family Welfare department of Government of West Bengal has confirmed a total of 13,43,442 COVID-19 positive cases, including 1,09,806 active cases, 15,120 deaths and 12,18,516 recoveries, as of 28 May 2021.

COVID-19 pandemic in Assam Ongoing COVID-19 viral pandemic in Assam, India

The first case of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Indian state of Assam was reported on 31 March 2020. As of 1 September 2021, the Government of Assam has confirmed a total of 89,468 positive cases of COVID-19 including 67,641 recoveries, three migrations and 234 deaths in the state. The state's as well as northeast's largest city, Guwahati, has been worst affected by coronavirus.

COVID-19 lockdown in India Details of ongoing lockdown in India

On the evening of 24 March 2020, the Government of India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days, limiting movement of the entire 1.38 billion population of India as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 pandemic in India. It was ordered after a 14-hour voluntary public curfew on 22 March, followed by enforcement of a series of regulations in the country's COVID-19 affected regions. The lockdown was placed when the number of confirmed positive coronavirus cases in India was approximately 500. Upon its announcement, a mass movement people across the country was described as the largest since the partition of India in 1947. Observers stated that the lockdown had slowed the growth rate of the pandemic by 6 April to a rate of doubling every six days, and by 18 April, to a rate of doubling every eight days. As the end of the first lockdown period approached, state governments and other advisory committees recommended extending the lockdown. The governments of Odisha and Punjab extended the state lockdowns to 1 May. Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal and Telangana followed suit. On 14 April, Prime minister Narendra Modi extended the nationwide lockdown until 3 May, on written recommendation of governors and lieutenant governors of all the states, with a conditional relaxations after 20 April for the regions where the spread had been contained or was minimal.

COVID-19 pandemic in South Asia Epidemiology of COVID-19 pandemic in Southern Asia

Countries and territories in South Asia have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The first South Asian country to report a confirmed case was Nepal, which documented its first case on 23 January 2020, in a man who had returned from Wuhan on 9 January. As of 2 July, at least one case of COVID-19 has been reported in every country in South Asia. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Maldives have implemented lockdowns, Sri Lanka has responded with quarantine curfews while India and Nepal have declared a country-wide lockdown. Countries have also instituted various levels of restrictions on international travel, some countries have completely sealed off their land borders and grounded most international flights.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the cannabis industry Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the cannabis industry. Investor's Business Daily said the industry was affected as "customers stock up on prescriptions and recreational customers load up on something to make the lockdown a little more mellow or a little less boring".

A Tablighi Jamaat religious congregation that took place in Delhi's Nizamuddin Markaz Mosque in early March 2020 was a COVID-19 super-spreader event, with more than 4,000 confirmed cases and at least 27 deaths linked to the event reported across the country. Over 9,000 missionaries may have attended the congregation, with the majority being from various states of India, and 960 attendees from 40 foreign countries. On 18 April, 4,291 confirmed cases of COVID-19 linked to this event by the Union Health Ministry represented a third of all the confirmed cases of India. Around 40,000 people, including Tablighi Jamaat attendees and their contacts, were quarantined across the country.

A Tablighi Jamaat religious congregation that took place in Lahore's Raiwind Markaz in early March 2020 was a COVID-19 super-spreader event with more than 539 confirmed cases linked to the event being reported across the country. Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry blamed the "stubbornness of the clergy" for the event having gone ahead despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on domestic violence Aspect of viral outbreak

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic many countries have reported an increase in domestic violence and intimate partner violence. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, noting the "horrifying global surge", has called for a domestic violence "ceasefire". UN Women stated that COVID-19 created "conditions for abuse that are ideal for abusers because it forced people into lockdown" thus causing a "shadow pandemic" that exacerbated preexisting issues with domestic violence globally.

Protests over responses to the COVID-19 pandemic Protests against restrictions introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

There have been protests, demonstrations and strikes around the world against national responses to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by governmental bodies. Some have protested against governmental failure to stem the spread of the virus effectively, while others have been driven by the financial hardship resulting from government measures to contain the virus, including restrictions on travel and entertainment, hitting related industries and casual workers hard. Protests against restrictions on people's movements, compulsory wearing of face masks, lockdowns, vaccinations and other measures have also been driven by COVID-19 misinformation, conspiracy theories and far-right groups and individuals.

Stone pelting in India refers to criminal assault in the form of stone throwing by individuals or mob who pelt, bombard or throw stones at security personnel, police forces and healthcare workers. Stone pelting began with incidents of stone pelting in Kashmir, but became less frequent after the revocation of article 370 of the Constitution of India and the conversion of the state into union territories. These incidents were later reported in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh in 2019 in protest of the citizenship amendment act. In 2020, such incidents started occurring in various parts of India on doctors and policemen after the coronavirus lockdown.

Indian government response to the COVID-19 pandemic Actions by the Indian government on COVID-19 pandemic

The first responses of the government of India to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country involved thermal screenings of passengers arriving from China, the country from which the coronavirus disease 2019 originated, as well as of passengers arriving from other countries. As the pandemic spread worldwide, the Indian government recommended social distancing measures and also initiated travel and entry restrictions. Throughout March 2020, several shutdowns and business closures were initiated, and by the end of the month, the Indian government ordered a widespread lockdown. An economic package was announced in May 2020.

A Tablighi Jamaat religious conference that took place at the "Masjid Jamek Sri Petaling" in Kuala Lumpur's Sri Petaling district between 27 February to 1 March 2020 became a COVID-19 super-spreader event with more than 3,300 cases being linked to the event. By 19 May 2020, the Malaysian Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah confirmed that 48% of the country's COVID-19 cases (3,347) had been linked to the Kuala Lumpur Tablighi Jamaat cluster. Additionally, nearly 10% of attendees were overseas visitors, causing COVID-19 to spread to other countries in Southeast Asia. On 8 July 2020, this cluster was declared over by the Ministry of Health.


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Further reading

  1. Stickle, Ben; Felson, Marcus (16 June 2020). "Crime Rates in a Pandemic: the Largest Criminological Experiment in History". American Journal of Criminal Justice. 45 (4): 525–536. doi: 10.1007/s12103-020-09546-0 . PMC   7297511 . PMID   32837162.