With a large chunk of the world's population forced still to stay at home, local communities and entire nations are recording steep drops in overall crime rates.
Burglars are generally less likely to prey on a home that's occupied, and most theft and assault hotspots such as sporting venues and pubs are shuttered. Still, it's not all a pretty picture, as the unique dynamic of national lockdowns puts new pressure on law enforcement and spurs more cases of certain crimes.
Italy's L'Espresso weekly "Criminal Contagion: How the Mafia is getting rich from coronavirus'
Here's a quick tour of the world of crime in the time of coronavirus:
Gangs on the rise: In Mexico, about 200 criminal groups see the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to grow their influence. Positioning themselves as guardians and protectors of communities, the gangs use extortion, kidnapping and violence on a regular basis. Forbes Mexico reports that the country's already high homicide rate rose even more, hitting a new record in March, as the state redirected resources into containing the health crisis and trying to prop up its sluggish economy.
Plague of domestic abuse: Reports from China to France to Argentina confirm fears that confining families to their homes will increase domestic violence. In Israel, the daily Haaretz reported that the number of cases opened by the police involving sex crimes within the family jumped by 41% this March compared to last year.
Digital delinquents: Since a big part of our lives went online, crimes are bound to follow. The Swedish newspaper ETC has reported an increase in online pedophile activity and cyberbullying. Europol warns about cyber-attacks exploiting the global chaos, including fraudulent online sale of COVID-19 tests, face masks and sanitizers.
Mob stories: In Italy, some fear that cash-strapped, small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs will turn to the mafia to save their businesses. This way, mafia money enters in competition with the social and business support programs set up by the government, Radio France Internationale reported. According to Mario Vaudano, the former anti-mafia magistrate, other European countries with a significant mafia presence, including Slovakia, Poland or Malta, are in a high risk to see organized crime capitalize on the pandemic.
Police brutality: In some countries, authorities have been accused of excessive violence and abuse when enforcing the curfew, reported Le Monde. In the first days of lockdown in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Senegal and elsewhere, social media were flooded with images showing the military and police beating people in the streets, forcing them to do push-ups or even dancing in front of the camera while reciting curfew restrictions.
Crimes of contagion: Curiously, the pandemic is also giving rise to some new, illness-related offenses. "Malicious coughing" is now a crime and has already sent a man in the UK to jail for six months. In the Czech Republic, a man posted on social media that he has coronavirus and licks bread in supermarkets for fun, the Czech news site iDNES.cz reported. The suspect is now facing up to eight years in prison for scaremongering during a state of emergency.
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A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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