Toronto Police Services can expect to see growth in domestic violence and commercial break-and-enter crimes under the influence of social distance caused by quarantine.
“There’ll be some decreases and some increases depending on which category you would look at,” said Cliff Aguiar, a Seneca College professor who is specialized in crime and intelligence analysis.
But since we are still at an early stage of quarantine, it is difficult to clearly foresee how the crime rates will develop in the future.
“While it is far too early to make any determination on possible crime trends during this time, we do know that since March 16, 2020, our weekly statistics show a decline in all major crime categories (except homicides, which have remained stable),” said Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray in an email.
Burglaries in commercial facilities to rise
Aguiar predicts commercial facilities, which had to shut down due to the pandemic, will be at risk of burglary since they remain empty. It is also assumed that the crimes might occur due to the absence of a guardian at night when offenders usually operate.
“You have to have three factors that work together for crimes: an offender, a suitable target, and the absence of a capable guardian,” he said. “When you have these three elements blended together, the physical convergence is what causes the opportunity for crime.”
Some business owners have already expressed concerns, having properties in locations that are potentially at an increased risk of break-and-enters and vandalism.
“Each division across the city has been tasked with monitoring these locations for the purpose of preventing and detecting crime,” Gray said.
But even the neighbourhoods that are not susceptible to a high level of crime are not protected from violations.
Carolyn Hatfield owns Canine Social Company at 1864 Danforth Ave., a doggie daycare that provides dog-grooming services and pet supplies.
As cases of COVID-19 continued to climb every day, she opted to close the business on March 21 to ensure the safety of her employees. Many of them were commuting to work by public transport to work.
On March 23 at about 5:30 a.m., someone broke the glass front door and entered the store without triggering an alarm.
“[Criminals] pulled out my cash tray and, in doing that, they knocked over a glass display cabinet, a desk and some products,” Hatfield said. “They also destroyed some of the equipment at the cash desk because of pulling stuff away from where it should have been.”
“I believe that the break-in is related to the closure,” Hatfield said. “We have been here for seven years without any issues, and two days after it is posted that the daycare and grooming are closed, the [crime] happened.”
Hatfield, who lives four blocks from the store, said the neighbourhood is one not usually riddled with crime.
Other crime categories likely to grow
Aguiar said domestic violence could also spike, as families throughout the city always remain together on one property due to quarantine.
Along with domestic incidents, speeding and stunt driving could potentially rise as well, since now there are fewer cars on the roads.
“People who drive 50 kilometres over the speed limits have become a bit of an issue for a number of police services,” Aguiar said.
“Drivers see that no one’s on the road, so they allow themselves to break the rules of the road. In addition, they believe that nobody’s going to catch them.”
Digital fraud may also increase as people now more than ever depend on government services and agencies.
Aguiar says criminals will take advantage of vulnerable individuals who have been laid off and therefore need employment insurance.
“What we may see [is an increase in the scam where] fraudsters seek an opportunity to send fake text messages and pushing emails, pretending to be a government agency to get people to provide their personal information.”
On the contrary, certain crime categories will potentially decrease due to self-isolation practices, such as:
- residential break-and-enter
- impaired driving
- street robberies
- traffic violations
As time goes by, the police will more accurately analyze changes in crime rates, as we dive deeper into the pandemic world.