Reducing the Unanticipated Crime Harms of COVID-19 Policies

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Law


The COVID-19 crisis is changing the shape of crime. Drawing on crime science, this research will inform evidence-based policy and practice.

Lockdown requires people to stay home, leading to domestic violence and child abuse increases. Yet social distancing means police are arresting fewer suspects: reduced services at time of greater need. COVID-19 gives fraudsters a 'conversation starter' to approach people in-person, via text, email and online. Remote working and online leisure activities, furloughs and financial difficulties, provide more potential targets for online crimes of various types. Vulnerable groups including the elderly and disabled are more at risk.

Yet a Harvard study (Kissler et al. Science, 14 April) suggests that, absent a vaccine, social distancing may continue into 2022, perhaps 2024. So we will anticipate crime effects of prolonged, graduated or cyclical exit strategies.

We will also anticipate post-crisis scenarios, seeking to sustain declines in crimes like burglary, to avoid them returning to 'normal'.

We will use (1) national police data, (2) detailed data from three police partners, (3) fraud and e-crime data from industry, and (4) sources from other agencies such as Childline (for unreported crime). Pre/post-change analysis will use a combination of time-series and spatial modelling. Nesting force-level analysis in the national and international context will allow us to gauge scalability.

We have police and industry partners, national (Home office, National Police Chief's Council, College of Policing) and international advisors. The aim is to inform policy and practice, producing 16 deliverables including policy and practice briefings and research articles.