Closed Doors, Open Windows to New Crimes


Author: Sabrin Philip, B.Sc(Honors)Forensic Science, currently pursuing M.A Criminology with specialization in Forensic Psychology, National Forensic Sciences University, Gujarat , India.

Co-Author: Krupa Nishar, Ph.D.(pursuing in Forensic Psychology), MSc Forensic Psychology Assistant Professor, National Forensic Sciences University, Gujarat, India.


Crime did not dry up completely during the pandemic; it just changed its pattern, in search of new opportunities presented by a health crisis that has affected every aspect of our lives and in ways that were not always immediately visible to those who enforce the law. When countries imposed lockdowns, traditional crimes such as shoplifting and burglary fell as shops were shutdown. However, cyber crime, domestic violence and antisocial behavior rose – the latter probably due to breaches of Covid-19 restrictions [9]

2020 led to surges in everything from domestic abuse to black markets in fake vaccines. In many countries, the pandemic led to several lockdowns that impacted individuals’ both professionally and personally. New problems and challenges arose, as well as opportunities. Criminological theories explained that lockdown measures could activate causal mechanisms for both a reduction and an increase in crimes [3]

Criminological theory: How is crime expected to evolve during pandemic?

In short term, restrictive measures not only reduced opportunities to commit street crimes but also limited the possibility of criminals breaking into private homes. Social-distancing measures had a significant impact on interpersonal violence, such as physical assault outside the domestic sphere, shoplifting, theft, robbery etc. In long term, the closure of businesses resulted in unemployment and loss of income affected crimes, particularly profit-oriented crimes. Furthermore, looting and rioting were a risk in economically disadvantaged areas.

Short and long-term impact on crimes can be viewed in the context of criminological theories known as “opportunity theory” and “strain theory”: Opportunity theory posits that lockdown measures can potentially reduce the possibility of criminal offences being perpetrated because of the restrictions imposed on mobility and social interaction; strain theory argues that socioeconomic strains that affect a large stratum of the population, especially the most vulnerable groups, have the potential to create an atmosphere of pressure that drives individuals to commit crime. In general, a reduction in certain types of crime can be expected in conditions of strict confinement.  As opposed to opportunity reduction, strain is expected to manifest itself well after the introduction of lockdowns and curfews, as people become negatively affected by dire economic circumstances caused by the lockdown and may begin to lose faith in government measures to contain the pandemic. The impact of the latter is likely to have a more long-lasting effect, even after lockdown measures [3].


Those who did commit traditional-type crimes adapted new ways of working. Armed robbers realized that face masks offered convenient anonymity. Thieves coveted new categories of objects. Oxygen canisters were stolen from hospitals; food banks were raided. And though violent crime fell in general during lockdown, a new category of assault came into being: malicious coronavirus coughing. When the culprits are children, they risk exclusion from school. Adults, whose victims have included key workers, health workers, risk prisoners [9]

As an English proverb goes’ An idle mind is devil’s workshop’, during the pandemic  all of us have been confined to our homes and since we have no particular activities to engage in, most people developed criminal thoughts and activities. The lockdown, rising unemployment and easy access to cyber spaces are major reasons for an increase in crimes in India. For example: In one case, two former restaurant managers and a hardware store salesman were convicted of stealing cell phones and jewelry in Delhi. “They recently robbed a food delivery boy,” senior police official R.P Meena said. “In many cases, educated people with no criminal records have been found committing these crimes. When we questioned them, they told us they didn’t have a job and couldn’t make ends meet,” she added. The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the country’s economy [3]


Measures were put in place to address the pandemic such as confinement and physical distancing that affect livelihoods and access to services but they likely increased the risks of abuse against children, women, Elderly and mentally challenged experiencing violence at their comfort zones.

Stressors for increase in violence are: Stay at home increased their time spent with the abusers, job loss, economic uncertainty, joint families where physical distances not feasible, limited or no access to protective networks, mobility restrictions etc. This has been shown in the researches of W.H.O (2020) [14]

Children were victims of domestic violence as they had fewer opportunities to leave the house and seek assistance. Smaller children are less likely to comprehend or have access to avenues for seeking assistance. Due to school closures, there is no access to school as a safe space, and there are no school-related support networks. Increased risk of online abuse as a result of more time spent online [14].

Household care burdens caused by homeschooling and caring for sick and elderly people increase stress and conflict with partners. Stay-at-home orders increased the frequency of sexual demands from a partner, increasing the risk of sexual coercions. Access to telephone and internet limited and monitored by partners. Financial reliance on their partners increases economic abuse. UN has referred to violence against women during COVID-19 as the “shadow pandemic” lurking in the background[13] The number of domestic violence complaints received by the National Commission for Women increased significantly from 2,960 in 2019 to 5,297 in 2020 [1] Pandemics like COVID-19 can exacerbate not only violence within the home, but other forms of Violence against female such as  against female healthcare workers , migrants or domestic workers had a great spike.  Violence in public spaces and online are prevalent and the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse in exchange for health care services and social safety net benefits becomes more likely [8].

The cycle of abuse is a social cycle theory proposed by Leone.E. Walker that states different stages of Intimate Partner Violence, that is prevalent during the pandemic. Where the victims develop Battered Women Syndrome, subtype of PTSD. There were studies done to break the cycle of violence and for successful intervention of the battered women. In which the open window phase was added between the 2nd and 3rd phases in Cycle of Violence. But still, the main reasons for the increase in domestic violence during the pandemic was that the open window phase was not available to women who knew about it, and many more women were unaware of the concept [15]

Elderly and mentally challenged were also prone to the violence due to various reasons such as mobility issues that limits one’s ability to seek assistance. Accessing trustworthy information using newer technologies, like the internet, poses problems/difficulty. Because of their higher risk of infection, they are forced to stay in quarantine for a longer period of time, which prolong social isolation, increased abuse, and reduces opportunities to seek help, physical reliance on other members of the household. COVID-19 has resulted staff reductions in care facilities, as a result of illness or self-isolation (staff), and suspension of family visits, resulting in increased isolation, as well as the high risk of violence and negligence [14]

The national strategy against COVID -19 emphasizes that home is the safest place to be. Ironically, for domestic violence victims, home is the most unsafe haven.


With the rise of social media, gamers particularly Gen Z’s – have perfected the art of building communities in and around video games. Due to lockdown the gaming audience increased as online games involved in-game currency, in-game purchases, and real-world currency (stored in wallets), they offer a target for fraudsters’ .Examples of Cyber-attacks: Directing towards third type websites, phishing, targeting gamers IP address, Fake mobile versions of popular online games, targeting children for their parent’s credit cards [4]

As online gaming fuelled by lockdown turned from fun to a dangerous addiction among the young and the old alike, claiming many individual’s career and life. On July 12/2020 , 14-year-old Sriram (name changed) of Tamil Nadu, India , locked himself up in a room after he was reportedly scolded by his parents for playing games on mobile continuously which was bought for the purpose of online classes. The class IX student was later brought out and rushed to a hospital nearby but was declared dead. Officials concluded that the trigger for Sriram’s extreme step was the confrontation with his parents and the inability to complete the online game [2]

Across the country, for most families with children and teenagers, addiction to gaming has been a common problem for a long time and the current lockdown has multiplied their woes. Online gaming has not only been a problem for children and youth but adults too get addicted to games that involve real money. One of the games most played by adults is online rummy offered by virtual platforms. Women are also ending up in marital troubles due to addiction to online rummy games. “We have seen cases of married women who lost a lot of money in online rummy without the knowledge of their partners and vice-versa. Such people go through a condition called Gambler’s fallacy in which they think the money lost in numerous games could be won back in the next game, “says Dr. Vishal India, chief psychiatrist in VIMHANS [6].  Unemployment and boredom increased gaming addiction during the pandemic.


The threat of cyber-attacks is one now being taken seriously by the financial sectors. It isn’t surprising given crime and malevolent state activity tends to follow where the money is. The Internet is also a necessity for many corporate and government office employees who are working from home in the lockdown. Cases of data breach through unsecured apps for official meetings in the lockdown is being a major concern, zoom app has been detected as a part of mediums to cybercrimes. It was observed that hackers were able to get access to the meeting IDs and the passwords and during the online lectures or other official meetings and inappropriate content used to come up out of nowhere [12].

Social media have also played a part in fraud and insecure web browsing. Hacktivists created fake government websites providing jobs to doctors and nurses for Covid duties. Then there were people selling sanitizers, PPE kits and food on fake websites. Some hackers gained access to bank accounts.

There has been a significant increase in cybercrime against women, especially Sextortion, during the pandemic induced lockdown with “caged criminals” targeting them online. According to National Commission for Women (NCW) data, 54 cybercrime complaints were received online in April in comparison to 37 complaints – received online and by post — in March, and 21 complaints in February. This is a form of frustration as they (cyber criminals) are caged right now. There is a whole racket going on where women are getting blackmailed through emails stating that their phones and laptops has been hacked, and if they don’t deposit money in the accounts of hacker, the photos will be released to their contacts as well social media platforms. Whatever official figure that is being quoted or reported is just the tip of the iceberg as a majority of women do not report cybercrime because they worry about the social stigma associated with it that they will have to face [10]

In the virtual conference of Roadmap for Digital Cooperation UN secretary-general said:

“If we do not come together now around using digital technology for good, we will lose a significant opportunity to manage its impact, and we could see further fragmentation of the internet, to the detriment of all.” When the whole country is locked down, people are working from home and spending a lot of time on the internet. Therefore, even cyber criminals are becoming innovative and craftier in their techniques [12]

Another major crime that evolved was selling of Covid vaccines and vaccine certificates in the dark web [11] .The W.H.O’s top official said the group is aware of reports of “criminal groups” reusing empty vaccine vials and tampering with the Covid vaccines supply chain. The World Health Organization also warned against counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines sold on the dark web. And strictly advised people to buy vaccines from government organizations, any vaccines outside this are falsified or substandard, with the potential to cause serious harm [9]. Meanwhile, vaccine certificates are created and printed to the orders; the buyer provides the name and dates they want on the certificate and the vendor replies with what Check Point said resembles an authentic card. The counterfeit products are being marketed to people who need to board planes, cross borders, start a new job or other activities that may require someone to give proof of vaccination [7].The technology we use now was developed without security in mind. As we move towards the age of block chain transactions, machine learning, 5G enabled services and quantum we need to make sure we do not repeat the mistakes. As quoted by Sir Walter Raleigh-“There is nothing exempt from the peril of mutation.”

Covid-19 is an eye opener for the world to know the various drivers of crimes and how crimes have mutated during the pandemic globally. Criminals of the future will probably have many of the same motives as todays but the ways in which they carry out their crimes may be radically different. As a result, criminologists must broaden their minds and studies rather than theoretically, more practically.  And not hinge onto traditional perspectives of crimes because the crime and criminals aren’t oscillating their attitudes rather altering it day by day. Hence, without losing hope, we can confront the threats that take place in our world by proactively engaging in securing and prevention acts.

Works Cited

[1] Complaints of Domestic violence against women spiked in year of lockdown:NCW Data. (2021, March 25). Hindustan Times.

[2] Boda, T. (2020). Lockdown Brings Spotlight To Online Gaming Addiction. The Hindu.

[3] crime, U. N. (2020). Effect of the COVID-19 and related restrictions on crimes. property crime brief.

[4] Delhi), M. K. (2020, july 16). Corornavirus: Street crime, cyber fraud on the rise in India. DW.

[5] Kelly, S. (2021). Vaccines selling in Illegal Market. CNN Business.

[6] Lufkin, B. (2020). How online has become a social lifeline. BBC- The Life Project.

[7] Miao, H. (2021). WHO warns against sales of counterfeit vaccines on the dark web. CNBC.

[8] organization, W. H. (2021). Violence Against Women. World Health Orgaanisation- Fact sheet.

[9] Spinney, L. (2020). How Covid Transformed Global Crimes. The Guardian.

[10] Sunny, S. (2020, December 25). Cyber Crimes went up high during lockdown- Delhi News. Hindustan Times.

[11] Tidy, J. (2021). Covid19:Vaccine and Vaccine Passports being sold on Dark net. BBC.

[12] Wahane, V. (2021). The Rise of Cybercrimes Amid covid19 Lockdown. blog.ipleaders.

[13] Wallace, A. (2020, November 4). Things To know About Violence during Covid19 and beyond. Healthline.

[14] WHO. (2020). Violence against children,women,elderly:COVID19-Key Actions. World Health Organisation.

[15] Wilson, J. K. (2019). Cycle of Violence. Wiley Online Library.