The COVID-19 outbreak has affected both law enforcement and crime. How have criminal groups been affected and what is law enforcement doing about it?
Law Enforcement Shifts to Different Areas
Law enforcement tends to focus on certain areas where crime is known to be higher. COVID-19 will not necessarily change that entirely, but the virus does mean police are being called on to ensure residents do not violate stay-at-home ordinances. This happens more frequently in urban areas, so some rural law enforcement is being called into more highly populated areas. Even if there are violations in rural locations, the risk is lower because there are fewer people.
Law enforcement is focused on maintaining order and safety in the most densely populated areas. This is the case in Italy where cops are patrolling shopping areas. Spain even brought in the military to help with shutdown enforcement, and it is expected the same will occur in Africa and throughout Central America.
In the United State, some state has mobilized the National Guard to fill in where local law enforcement has been affected by illness.
Increased Crime Levels Expected in the Coming Months
Law enforcement and city officials throughout the country have also begun planning for an increase in crime due to the economy suffering from shutdowns. Economists predict a global recession, which will intensify crime in urban, suburban, and rural areas. The shift of law enforcement to more urban areas during the height of the pandemic could even increase rural crimes, such as those related to water or agricultural theft. Additionally, there are concerns about increasing drug crimes in certain areas throughout the United States and around the world.
Some are also concerned about an increase in crime related to the world’s waterways. It is expected that sea patrols will be aggressive in their effort to push away migrants escaping declining conditions in poorer countries.
Online and Tech-Related Crime Expected to Rise, Too
There is also expected to be an increase in criminal activity online. Criminals are after illicit profits, so law enforcement needs to adjust and focus on those committing crimes online, as well as in the real world. Though this trend was occurring before COVID-19, now with the expected increase in the use of facial recognition technologies, crowdsourcing, artificial intelligence, and big-data mining, things will change even more. Technology will play a vital, positive role for enforcing laws, but could also raise questions about spying on society and repression. This is especially true in certain countries, such as China where the government regularly scans cell phones, tracks people outside and inside their homes, and uses facial recognition technology in crowds.
Fears about COVID-19 could make these practices more mainstream around the world. More people seem willing to accept infringement on their privacy to protect against the virus.