The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a health and economic crisis worldwide.
Since it was discovered in Hubei, China in late 2019, it has spread rapidly across the globe, bringing with it numerous challenges. Businesses have shut down due to lockdown and travel restrictions contributing to unemployment and financial constraints. The closing of learning institutions has also kept a lot of youth at home, leading to indiscipline cases. Racism and xenophobia have also become a problem in countries like China and the US.
However, one of the most significant challenges that COVID -19 has brought to our doorsteps is crime. As a result of the measures put in place by various governments to fight the pandemic, there has been a sharp rise in crime in some countries, while in others, there has been a surprising reduction.
We explore the crime statistics in 6 countries, mentioning some of the crimes prevalent during the pandemic, with a special focus on murder cases.
However, let’s start with a definition of murder.
What is the definition of murder according to the law?
Murder, also known as homicide, refers to the act of unlawfully killing another human being with malicious intent. A person is accused of murder under section 300 of India’s Penal Code if:
- He or she commits an act with the intention of causing death to another
- He or she injures another knowing the said injuries will result in death
- He or she knowingly commits an act that will lead to death with no excuse for doing so, for example, as an act of self-defense.
Murder is separate from culpable homicide, which refers to the accidental killing of another due to grave provocation, such as in the act of self-defense, as mentioned above. Culpable homicide also covers the killing of others in good faith while protecting private or public property.
During the pandemic, murder cases have increased in some countries while decreasing in others. Here is some more information.
1. Crime in the US during the pandemic
In the US, drug crimes have decreased by a little over 60%, and violent crimes by 15% during the pandemic.
Unfortunately, gun violence cases have increased, especially in major cities like New York, where they recorded a 66.8 percent rise. Other cities like Chicago and LA recorded a lot of gun violence cases too.
Experts suggest the increase in gun violence is due to the rise in gun sales and racial violence over the past 6 months. Many American citizens, concerned for their safety, have exercised their right to bear firearms with almost 2 million guns sold in March 2020. The high number of gun sales have continued over the past 6 months with a record high of 3.9 million guns sold in June 2020.
The pandemic has also forced many people to close their businesses due to stay at home orders, and people are economically strained. As a result, crimes like burglary, domestic violence, hate crimes, and financial scams have risen.
However, of great interest is the rise in homicide cases by double-digit percentages in major US cities. According to the National Commission on COVID -19 and criminal justice, the trend started in late May, specifically in cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia.
In fact, there has been a rise in homicides in most major US cities. A Wall Street Journal analysis recorded an increase in 36 cities out of the 50 biggest ones.
2. Crime in Brazil during the pandemic
In Brazil, the COVID -19 pandemic has triggered a shocking increase in violent crimes and homicides.
The murder rates continue to be a problem boosted by police violence. As a result, there was a 43 percent increase in the number of people killed by the police force between March and May 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
There has also been an increase in domestic violence cases as people now have to interact in private places or homes, making it easy for abusers to access their victims.
The conflict between various criminal gangs has also led to intentional violent deaths. However, thefts and robberies have declined as COVID -19 regulations kept people off the streets.
3. Crime in the UK during the pandemic
In the UK, when the lockdown measures were put in place, crime started dropping. There was a 5% drop in March, which edged to 25% in April.
An area that has exhibited an increase in crime in the UK is domestic violence as perpetrators stay home with their victims. Experts suggest that lockdown measures are magnifying abuse among family and friends.
As a result, most murders recorded in the UK during the pandemic period are from domestic abuse. In the first month of lockdown, about 16 females were killed in domestic homicides. By July, 10 more died. Therefore, in the UK, murder through domestic violence has been a major problem during the pandemic.
4. Crime in India during the pandemic
As in other countries, the pandemic has negatively affected India’s economy, leading to decreased employment. In March, the government ordered a massive lockdown that saw over a billion people stay at home.
The lockdown led to a rise in unemployment that triggered an increase in cybercrime, such as fraud and hate speech. There has also been some crime on the streets, such as robbery and street brawls. Police have also recorded many cases of violating lockdown regulations too.
There have been some murder cases in India resulting from the lockdown restrictions and street crimes. Some are due to relational conflict either between neighbors or spouses, while others happened during robberies. However, in general, India’s crime decreased during the lockdown and only started rising as lockdown measures were lifted.
5. Crime in South Africa during the pandemic
South Africa declared a national lockdown in March, which triggered a decrease in criminal cases all over the country. Between April and June, crime decreased by about 40 percent, although incidents of unrest where schools were vandalized were recorded.
Unfortunately, as in other countries such as the UK, gender-based violence in South Africa increased as victims were in close quarters with their abusers during the lockdown. There were also many cases of robbery triggered by unemployment.
However, South Africa has recorded a decrease in murder cases during the pandemic, primarily due to lockdown regulations as people (including the criminals) stayed home. Unfortunately, for the same reasons, incidents of fraud and cybercrime increased as in India.
6. Crime in Japan during the pandemic
In Japan, cases of crime declined, hitting an all-time low, due to stay at home regulations enforced by the police. Street crimes decreased by about 22 percent, while theft decreased by 17 percent. Cases of murder were also low as they dropped by about 5.7 percent.
Contrary to other countries where domestic violence was a problem, in Japan, assault cases also decreased by about 9 percent. Unfortunately, cases of financial fraud increased. Japan is one of the countries in the world that registered a significant decrease in crime during the pandemic.
Why has there been an increase in crime, especially murder, in countries with a high murder rate?
Generally, we can see the reasons for high murder cases during the pandemic in countries such as the US is unemployment. Cases of racial discrimination have also led to unnecessary gun violence resulting in many deaths.
The effects of self-isolation (such as victims being in close proximity to their abusers) have also led to many domestic violence cases, some of which have ended up in murder like in the UK.
In Brazil, we see a unique scenario where police violence and gang activities have increased during the pandemic resulting in high numbers of murder and gun violence cases.
Reasons for a decrease in crime in countries with low murder rates
In countries like the UK that recorded a decrease in crime due to strict lockdown regulations, murder rates were low. Many of the cases recorded were attributed to domestic violence.
The quarantine and self-isolation measures kept many criminals behind doors restricting their opportunities to commit crimes, especially serious ones such as murder.
Of significant help was the constant police presence in the streets that deterred criminals from wrongdoing. This was also the case in Japan.
Murder and its penalties
Murder is among the most severe of crimes in the countries featured in this article. It attracts harsh penalties. For example, in India, the punishment for murder is death or life imprisonment.
In the US, penalties for murder are life imprisonment without parole, 35 years to life, or the death penalty.
Japan also imposes a life sentence for murder, and in severe cases such as multiple killings, criminals get the death penalty.
In the UK, punishment for murder is a mandatory life sentence as well.
In light of the crime trends we have highlighted in various countries, we can see that the pandemic has significantly decreased cases of serious crimes such as murder in several countries. Although the pandemic has forced many people into unemployment, there has been a favorable change in crime rates in many countries. The decrease in crime rates has saved many people from the severe punishments outlined above.
We can see that law enforcement measures can play a significant role in decreasing crimes. Hopefully, as the pandemic gets under control, the good trends will stay, and the bad ones will change for the better.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christopher G. Aiello
Mr Aiello has a reputable 30+ year trajectory in law practice. Having been selected for multiple recognitions and awards, he practices in the Superior Court of New Jersey in both the trial court section and the appellate divisions, the Workers’ Compensation Court, and Municipal Courts. He has appeared in dozens of televised, print and internet media. Now, he’s dedicated completely to his very own Aiello Harris Law Firm.
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