For several weeks, police in Latvia have been working in an enhanced regime, controlling epidemiological safety measures: use of masks, compliance with self-isolation, assembly, illegal parties and Covidpass questionnaires. But what happens in the meantime with ordinary crime? Do the police have time to react to these incidents?
Despite the fact that the material situation of a large part of society deteriorated significantly during the pandemic, according to the State Police, the total crime rate in the country in 2020 has fallen slightly compared to a year earlier.
- In 2020, 1,398 criminal proceedings were launched for very serious offenses, 46 fewer than in 2019. There was a slight increase in fraud and money laundering.
- Last year, 8,237 criminal proceedings were launched for serious offenses,145 fewer in 2019.
- 19,625 criminal proceedings were initiated for less serious crimes, or 958 fewer than 2019.
- Last year there are also 2,172 criminal offenses, which is 372 fewer than 2019.
Police explain this decline in crime with closed borders, closed entertainment sites and greater police presence on the streets. But at the same time, it might be calm before the storm.
“According to criminology studies, the worse the economic situation, the more crime rates tend to grow. The sooner we get out of this crisis, both in terms of the pandemic and in terms of the economy, the sooner we can be glad that crime will not grow,” said Armands Ruks, Chief of the State Police.
Theft from houses, robberies and drunken fighting in the streets has reduced, while the increase in domestic violence is a new concern for police officers.
“If we look at the year as a whole, the number of calls received on domestic violence increased by 5%, but, for example, in December this year the number of calls increased by nearly 24%,” said Rīga Municipal Police Chief Juris Lūkass.
The management of both the State Police and the Rīga Municipal Police is convinced that, despite additional duties related to the epidemiological safety control, officers are also coping with daily duties.
The biggest concern for the police is the “gaps” caused by the virus in personnel. Around 130 people are currently affected by Covid-19 in the State Police and another 140 are in self-isolation as contacts. Eight employees of Rīga Municipal are fighting the disease and 14 are in self-isolation.