Criminality back to normal after coronavirus lockdown

Dutch police officer doing a traffic check (Stock Photo: Politie)Dutch police officer doing a traffic check (Stock Photo: Politie)

The quiet on the streets during the coronavirus lockdown is clearly reflected in police crime figures for the months of March through June. "We saw no pickpocketing, shoplifting or mugging for weeks. There were hardly any traffic incidents," Liesbeth Huyzer, deputy police chief at the National Police, said to NOS. These figures have now returned to normal.

While physical crimes decreased during the lockdown, the number of reports of online crime increased. WhatsApp fraud increased explosively - the number of reports rose from around 100 per week to around 100 per day. There was also an increase in online shopping fraud. "We set up a digital counter as of April, because people had to stay at home and still be able to file a declaration. The increase may therefore be partly due to the willingness to report and convenience," Huyzer said.

During the lockdown months, there were also more reports of neighborly disputes, noise complaints, and reports of young people causing problems. The police received 226 thousand such reports in the coronavirus months, compared to 161 thousand in the same months last year.

Enforcers issued around 16,500 fines for ignoring coronavirus measures, such as social distancing and the ban on gathering. And there was an increase in violence against police officers and other people in public duty. "Many people got a short fuse. You can see that in the demonstrations, it is an outlet for many people," Huyzer said, referring to the Virus Waanzin protest in The Hague where over 400 people were arrested.

The drop in street crimes gave the police more time to investigate during the months of March through June, Huyzer said. "We were able to resolve backlogs in investigative cases because other crimes failed to materialize. We were able to do the EncroChat investigation during this corona period." The police hacked into the encrypted phone provider and for months spied on millions of chat messages between criminals. So far that resulted in the arrest of over a hundred suspects and the discovery an underworld torture chamber.

Now that the lockdown measures relaxed, the police see that crime rates have returned to the old level, especially when it comes to burglaries, shoplifting and muggings. "We are now seeing digital crime falling slightly, but I do not expect it to disappear. If we continue to work at home in the future, it will have an effect. Where people are, criminals operate."