By: Miss. Ritu Basu. BSc. LLB, SOLJ, AU
Faculty guide: Dr. Anwesha Chatterjee, Assistant Prof. Biotechnology, SOLB, AU
“I need not pause to explain that crime is not a disease. It is criminology that is a disease.”
― G.K. Chesterton, Eugenics and Other Evils: An Argument against the Scientifically Organized State.
While there happened to begin an ever-multiplying growth in the debates, discussions, and immense study on nature, psychology, and cause behind the increasing crime rates across the world, and a quest for effective measures to control the same, there appeared the blessing in disguise for the crime prevention authorities, in the form of a deadly virus.
On the 11th of March, this year, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19, the disease caused by ‘coronavirus’ as a ‘global pandemic’, and ever since then ‘Stay home, stay safe’ has become the go-to slogan for every human being. The nature of the virus has made people, across the world, resort to staying indoors, and admire work-from-home. No doubt this pandemic has forced the biggest lockdown in history with billions of people advised staying indoors. Expert opinions and statistics have shown that this measure has affected the rate of several crimes against the human body, crimes against property, and organized crimes to a large extent.
Among various factors like poverty, social tolerance, and socio-economic conditions, that have been identified to affect crime rates, ‘population’ and ‘law enforcement efficiency’ has proved to be vital features that have influenced crime growth in any jurisdiction. Various researches have earlier shown that the increase in population at a given area has direct relations to the crime trend. Logically, the lesser the human interaction in society, the lesser will be its crime rate. From common parlance, this can be simply explained by looking at the nature of certain offenses. For example, criminal trespass, housebreaking, or theft, are offenses which, to put it straight; require the offender to leave his place of dwelling. Murders and rapes require human interactions to take place.
The Government of India declared a lockdown as a precautionary measure for the prevention of the spread of this disease. Since then, the country has witnessed a sharp decrease in common criminal activities in various states. According to a report published in ‘The Indian Express’ on 17th July 2020, the unintended consequence of this huge lockdown has been a marked decrease in crimes and road fatalities in the country.
The first phase of lockdown has rendered a 40% fall in murder cases, a 70% fall in rapes, and as much as 100% fall in offense of violence against women and children, according to the State Crime Record Bureau, Kerala. The state has also seen a remarkable decrease in the number of suicides and unnatural deaths, as compared to the same time as the previous year. Kerala, which accounts for a large share of road accident cases due to overcrowding of roads, has even experienced almost 17 times lesser road accident cases than the previous year, proved by a lesser number of admissions in the casualty section of the hospitals, and reduction in the trauma cases in the state.
Industrial areas in certain metropolitan cities like Bengaluru have reported significantly less number of industrial accident cases, for the obvious reason of closure of such industries and factories due to the lockdown.
Various state authorities have attributed the cause of a decrease in crimes due to shut down of liquor shops. Liquor has always played a significant role as a stimulant in the commission of violent crimes. Psychiatrist Dr. Vivian Kapil has confirmed the fact by stating “There is a definite correlation between alcohol use and violent tendencies. Other impulsive behaviors linked to alcohol abuse are rash driving, fighting over trivial reasons, irritability, and high-risk sexual behavior.” As a result of the closure of the source of such stimulants, the decrease in crime rates has been evident.
Senior police officials of the state of Assam have reported that the lockdown has resembled curfew-like situations, especially during the night, and hence has deterred the commission of certain crimes like house breaking by night or aggravated forms of robbery. Officials have stated that people are afraid to step out at night.
The law enforcement efficiency and more number of cops present on the roads have also deterred offenders from committing crimes more often. States have reported fewer cases of organized crimes like human trafficking and drug trafficking as the lockdown has resulted in the ‘breaking of chain’ at various places that act as a potential source, transit, or destination for such crimes.
The complete seizure in the operation of railways has also influenced the number of unnatural deaths in the country. No doubt, suicides, and casualties on train tracks have taken a hit too.
The significant decrease in the robberies and rape cases in the country has led to a feeling of security among citizens. As there has been less reporting of such grievous offenses, police officials have been able to devote their maximum time and effort to the COVID management task. Otherwise, the situation would have been disastrous in a country with increasing cases of death due to the disease as well as grievous offenses ravishing the nation.
However, several other forms of crimes have taken a sharp rise amidst the COVID-19 crisis. At the outset, it has to be mentioned that the disobedience to the quarantine rule promulgated by the State has been made punishable under various Sections of the Indian Penal Code. A lot of people are being booked under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (Disobedience to an order duly promulgated by a public servant) and Section 269 thereof (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life). These offenses, though minor, have made significant changes to the crime rate in a place.
India has witnessed a significant increase in domestic violence cases and violence against married women, according to the increased number of cases reported at the National Commission for Women. The country has even observed an upsurge in the assault on doctors and health workers during the crisis. Several healthcare workers in India have been attacked as they battle to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Reports say doctors have been spat at and chased away from homes, and that in one case-patients directed abusive and vulgar language towards female nurses. Some physicians and their families have also been ostracized by their neighbors because of their exposure to patients infected with COVID-19.
Also, resort to online modes of activities for governance, education, and work; there has been a rise in the cybercrime cases across the country that has led to people losing out on data privacy and security. A report has revealed that India has seen a 37 percent increase in cyberattacks in the first quarter of 2020, as compared to the fourth quarter of last year,. The Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) report showed that its products detected and blocked 52,820,874 local cyber threats in India between January and March this year. The data also shows that India now ranks 27th globally in the number of web-threats detected by the company in quarter 1 of 2020 as compared to when it ranked on the 32nd position globally in quarter 4 of 2019.
Hence, with new forms of offenses emerging and certain offenses not at all being affected by the lockdown, there remains an iota of doubt whether the precautionary due to the COVID-19 crisis has proved to be a boon to help in the diminution of the crime rate of the country.
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