Crime, Criminal Justice, and the COVID-19 Crisis Lockdown: A Special Issue Introduction

AuthorMarcelo F. Aebi,Fernando Miró-Llinares
Published date01 November 2021
Date01 November 2021
Subject MatterIntroduction
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2021, Vol. 37(4) 476 –479
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10439862211061887
Crime, Criminal Justice,
and the COVID-19 Crisis
Lockdown: A Special Issue
The seven articles included in this special issue of the Journal of Contemporary
Criminal Justice analyze the impact of the COVID-19 crisis lockdowns on crime and
criminal justice–related issues in Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Paraguay, Panama,
Mexico, Spain, the United States, and the United Kingdom. They cover a full range of
subjects, from methodology to the empirical trends observed in different types of
crimes, including those “created” as a consequence of the pandemic, passing through
the risk of discrimination in the health and criminal justice systems.
In particular, three articles use the routine activities approach, developed by Cohen
and Felson in 1979, as their main theoretical framework. In that perspective, the lock-
downs dramatically reduced the risk of convergence in time and in the public space of
potential offenders and victims in the absence of capable guardians; conversely, they
increased the risk of convergence of the same elements in the private sphere and in the
cyberspace. Theoretically, it is hence plausible to hypothesize that, during the lock-
downs, offline crime in the public space would decrease, offline crime in the private
sphere would increase, and online crime would also increase. This is the premise of the
articles by Aebi et al. (2021), Kemp et al. (2021), and Iesue et al. (2021) that study
trends in different crimes before, during, and after the lockdowns. Kemp et al. (2021)
concentrate on fraud and cybercrime in the United Kingdom, Iesue et al. (2021) on
domestic violence in Guatemala, and Aebi et al. (2021) on femicide in Argentina,
Chile, Paraguay, Panama, Mexico, and Spain.
The results partially support the hypotheses formulated above. The devil is in the
details. Yes, in the United Kingdom cybercrime and cyber-enabled fraud increased
during the lockdowns, but the trends differed considerably according to the kind of
victims (organizations or individuals) and the type of fraud, especially cyber-enabled
frauds related to activities in the physical space (Kemp et al., 2021). Yes, nonlethal
domestic violence registered an overall increase when the unit of analysis is the whole
Guatemala, but there are several exceptions when the units of analyses are the differ-
ent departments of the country (Iesue et al., 2021). But no, femicide did not increase
in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Panama, Mexico, and Spain (Aebi et al., 2021). These
results challenge the apocalyptic view of the pandemic’s consequences on crime por-
trayed by the mass media and supported by some experts. They also show the impor-
tance of the situation in which crimes take place, while highlighting at the same time
the limitations of a theoretical approach based only on that aspect. In that context,
1061887CCJXXX10.1177/10439862211061887Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeAebi and Miró-Llinares

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