Police tip crime to surge once virus hits hip pocket
THE Cairns crime curve has flattened this month after a horror start to the year, but police and experts fear this could be the calm before the storm.
Spiralling unemployment and financial hardship on the back of the coronavirus crisis could lead to jumps in fraud and thefts, according to the Far North's top detective, who said police were planning for a possible spike.
"People are going to be under pressure, financial strain, so I can see there being some challenges for investigators," Detective Inspector Jason Smith said. "I think time will reveal what it will look like but we're trying to plan.
"I'm focusing on keeping staff healthy … separating teams as much as I can, and we're keeping our finger on the pulse about exactly who (in terms of offenders) is out (of custody)."
February saw the city record its highest monthly total of car thefts in recent memory, with 91 vehicles stolen.
It prompted the formation of vigilante groups and saw a huge public backlash against the State Government over new youth justice legislation, which looks set to be overturned.
Insp Smith said break-ins had dropped by 47 per cent and car thefts by 30 per cent compared with February, attributing that to many of the prolific offenders now being behind bars.
"We had some really significant arrests - the right people to take out of the picture," he said. "I've been really pleased with the arrest rate."
However, he warned residents this was not the time to stop being vigilant, even with more people working from home or staying put during the virus crisis.
"Just because you're home, don't forget to lock your back door," he said. "We do see a lot of sneak offences.
"And when people are home, they do tend to leave their keys on the bench."
James Cook University criminologist Associate Professor Glenn Dawes said some of the impacts of the virus, largely due to unemployment and financial pressure, could be a rise in "petty crime".
"(There could be) a social strain on individuals, people struggling to maintain a lifestyle and that can lead to a rise in crime," he said.
"We could see a greater police presence if people are not towing the line.
"There could be a hardening of attitude by police in terms of enforcement. It's really all around function or a breakdown in function in society and the longer this goes on, the greater chance that maybe these things will occur."
Originally published as Police tip crime to surge once virus hits hip pocket