Fears economic legacy of virus will spark rise in crime

The legacy of Covid-19 is going to be as devastating as the disease itself, yet if those who were most vulnerable to the virus were the old, those most at risk in the aftermath are likely to be the young.

Monday, 22nd June 2020, 12:27 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd June 2020, 12:32 pm
Video conferencing has become increasingly important during lockdown

It has not just been individuals who have been locked down since March, but businesses as well.

The impact on the economy is threatening to be worse than the banking crisis of 2008 with the number of unemployed the worst we have seen for very many years.

Those who have been able to work from home are the lucky ones.

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Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner

Office workers and professionals – the types of jobs that were lost in the 2008 crisis - have been able this time to turn their homes into offices, moving their laptops into their bedrooms and learning new skills – how to manage conference calls and meet remotely through Zoom, Skype or Teams.

There are fewer jobs of this kind in South Yorkshire than in most parts of the country – fewer than 20 per cent in Barnsley and Doncaster.

But those who work in manufacturing, retail, recreation or leisure – who survived a little better in 2008 - may find they have nothing to return to.

Why is this something that concerns me as police and crime commissioner?

Quite simply it is because of who is going to be most affected and the opportunity that opens up for criminal gangs.

As we come out of Covid-19, for a time at least, there is likely to be considerable unemployment among the young and an acceleration of the divide between those who can get by and those who will be tipped further into poverty.

The Resolution Foundation estimates a third of young people aged 18-24 have already either been furloughed or have lost their job, with more to follow.

There is, of course, no inevitable relationship between poverty and crime.

However, large numbers of unemployed young adults in parts of the city that are already deprived will be targeted by the organised criminal gangs and their drug-dealing activities.

The last thing we want to see as we come out of lock-down is the criminalisation of some in the younger generations.

The focus for our local and national conversations over the coming months has got to be around this issue: how do we accelerate the economic recovery.

If we fail here, the implications for crime are not hard to predict.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​