Homicides in Scotland Drop to Lowest Level Since 2013

Police Scotland’s Quarter 4 performance report for the 2021-2022 period shows that 10 fewer homicides were recorded than during the 2020-2021 period. Fewer attempted murders were also recorded in the comparison of the same two periods.

The data also showed an increase in fraud (+18.6%), but a decrease in domestic abuse offences (-1.7%). However, domestic abuse offences have increased by 3.7% compared to the five-year mean.

Police Scotland Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said the figures released were noticeable because the past year had been an exceptional period for the police and the effects of the pandemic on crime were still being felt.

As reported by Policing Insight, an 11.2% overall increase in violent crime was reported in parallel with a significant decrease during the 2020-2021 period (-10%), due to the restrictions in place at that time. The mean for the last five years (2.1%) provides more information on violent crime. The police force considers that a reduction in the number of homicides is welcome, but that there is still a long way to go in the fight against violence, including working with other partners to prevent crime.

Police Scotland is continuing to fight domestic abuse and specialist officers have been deployed across the country to tackle this type of crime. The comprehensive review they have commissioned of the police response to public protection will allow them to continue to adapt and respond to changing demand and vulnerabilities in this respect.

On the other hand, an increase in fraud has once again been recorded in this quarter, reaffirming that online policing is increasingly becoming a key part of frontline policing. Work on disrupting criminal activities and protecting the public is ongoing, with £6.46 million of fraud prevented through the implementation of the Banking Protocol alone.

The Quarter 4 performance report also details the results of Police Scotland’s Your Police survey, conducted between January and March 2022. With more than 14,000 citizen responses received, the survey brought valuable information on public opinion.

Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said that interaction with citizens is fundamental to ensuring police legitimacy and key to enabling effective community policing. The public felt that things were being done well in terms of providing a consistent service and welcomed greater visibility and presence in areas that so require it.

In this regard, she expressed that the feedback they receive should be used to implement the policing approach, including the Annual Police Plan for the 2022-2023 period. She concluded by encouraging the public to participate in the surveys in order to influence police strategy.

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Investigative report on police killings in the U.S.

This paper, authored by researchers Meagan Cahill, Melissa M. Labriola and Jirka Taylor of RAND Corporation, summarises what is currently known about police-induced deaths in the United States and identifies existing evidence on different ways to prevent these killings.

There is a relatively large body of research on these topics, but these studies often suffer from methodological shortcomings, largely stemming from the scarcity of available data. The authors present this paper focused on developing a research agenda, or roadmap, to reduce these deaths at the hands of U.S. police.

The report, based on an extensive literature review as well as interviews with police experts, contains a series of recommendations for areas where research efforts can be most effective to help inform policy making and decision making aimed at reducing police-induced deaths.

The authors identify six focus areas: foundational issues (such as racial inequalities, police culture, and police unions), data and reports, training, policy, technology, and consequences for police officers. In addition, it is worth mentioning that the authors use the terms “police killings,” “police violence,” and “police shootings” to describe this type of police behaviour, whether unlawful or not. The authors identify specific instances of these behaviours as misconduct, illegality, negligence or excess when these descriptions are applied.

The authors close the paper with a series of research priorities including the following:

  • Incorporate a racial lens into studies on reducing police violence and police-induced deaths.
  • Carry out research on aspects of law enforcement that teach and reinforce traditional police culture and norms and on how reform efforts might overcome resistance stemming from culture and norms.
  • Carry out research on the role of unions in preventing accountability in different agency policies and in shaping the outcomes of cases involving deaths at the hands of police officers.
  • Explore additional data sources and data that could provide a more reliable representation of a police violence incident, including nonfatal incidents: situational factors surrounding incidents and the use of technology before, during, and after an incident.
  • Improve the collection of data on the consequences for officers following a death at the hands of the police.
  • Move away from self-reported data on body-worn camera use by reviewing images and incorporating alternative data sources for incident reviews.
  • Develop a consensus on what training should be implemented in all agencies.
  • Identify the mechanisms by which specific policies reduce violence at the hands of the police, identifying which combination of policies is most effective in reducing police violence.
  • Carry out research on the overall effects of using other technologies on lethal force.
  • Study the role of prosecutors in shaping the outcomes of cases involving deaths at the hands of police.

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U.S. Gun Homicides Reach a 25-Year High in 2020

The increase in homicide rates was largely driven by firearm-related murders, which increased by 35% between 2019 and 2020. The rate of gun-related homicides in the United States reached its highest level in over 25 years in 2020. Experts have yet to come up with an explanation.

As reported in May in an article by The New York Times, the number of gun deaths reached the highest ever recorded in the United States during 2020, the first year of the pandemic (figures from the Center for Injury Control and Prevention). More than 45,000 Americans died in firearm-related incidents while the pandemic was spreading across the United States.

However, more than half of these deaths were suicides, and this number did not increase substantially from 2019 to 2020. Thus, the overall increase in gun deaths was 15% in 2020.

Christopher Herrmann, a professor from the department of law and science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, says he is not surprised by these data. Nevertheless, he is concerned about what it might portend next summer, a period when there are typically more gun homicides. He adds that most major U.S. cities experience a 30% increase in shootings and homicides in the summer.

One possible explanation could be the stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes including disruption to services and education, social isolation, housing instability, and difficulty meeting daily expenses could have played a prominent role.

The increase also corresponded to the acceleration of firearms sales as the pandemic spread and confinements became the norm. Americans began buying guns in 2020 and continued throughout 2021, when in a single week the FBI recorded a record 1.2 million background checks.

The main reason people give for buying a gun is self-protection. However, research published in the 1990s established that simply having a gun in the house increases the risk of gun homicide by a factor of three and the risk of suicide by a factor of five.

But gun homicide has many roots. Federal investigators also cited disruptions in routine healthcare; protests over police use of lethal force; an increase in domestic violence; unequal access to healthcare; and long-standing systemic racism, which has contributed to poor housing conditions, limited educational opportunities and high poverty rates.

Law enforcement officials and criminologists pointed not only to the pandemic, but also to the divisive 2020 presidential election, as gun purchases tend to increase at times of profound political polarization.

Afrikan Americans were disproportionately affected by gun violence in 2020. Firearm homicide rates increased by 39.5% among Afrikan Amerikans from 2019 to 2020, reaching a total of 11,904. The victims were mostly young males.

Afrikan American males between the ages of 15 and 34 were more than 20 times more likely to die by gunshot than white males of the same age. The number of Afrikan American women killed by guns also increased by nearly 50% in 2020, in comparison to 2019.

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Europol: Analysis of the EU Drug Markets in 2022

Europe’s role in international drug production and trade is changing, according to a new report published by Europol and the EU Drugs Agency (EMCDDA).

In an in-depth look into the cocaine and methamphetamine markets, several law enforcement agencies highlight the increase in production activities in Europe. Collaboration between criminal groups around the world is also creating new security threats and expanding the market.

New research highlights the trends throughout the supply chain, from production and trafficking to distribution and use. They describe a large and growing cocaine market and a smaller but increasing methamphetamine market in the EU. In addition, they identify an increased threat posed by innovation in production processes and chemical precursors, and a growing range of products that may put consumers at risk.

Europe is a major producer of synthetic drugs for both domestic and foreign markets. It is also becoming an increasingly active transshipment point for drugs coming from and destined for other regions of the world. For both cocaine and methamphetamine, there is proof that Latin American and European criminal groups are working together on production, trafficking and distribution.

The report shows that the European cocaine market is expanding, driven by unprecedented levels of trafficking and leading to high availability. Extreme levels of cocaine production in South America have resulted in record amounts seized in Europe.

Cocaine is the second most consumed illicit drug in the EU after cannabis, with an estimated retail market value of €10.5 billion in 2020.

Violence and corruption, long observed in traditional drug-producing countries, are increasing in the EU. The reports reveal that in some EU member states (Belgium, Spain, France and the Netherlands), competition between drug suppliers has intensified, leading to a rise in violent confrontations. The expansion of the EU cocaine market has brought an increase in homicides, kidnappings and intimidation, with violence spreading to people outside the drug market.

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Crime rate continues to fall in Germany

The recent report of the Bundeskriminalamt for the year 2021[1] confirms the downward trend in crime in Germany, which fell by 4.9% compared to the previous year (5,047,860 crimes, a decrease of 262,761 compared to 2020). This is the fifth year in a row that the trend has continued and moved further away from the total data of six million recorded between 1993 and 2009 or between 2014 and 2016.

The most significant declines, correlating with the evolution of the pandemic and countermeasures, are found in crimes against infectious disease legislation, down 82.7%; robberies and thefts, which, combined, are down 11.8% (199,044 cases in total figures); and minor malicious injuries (-10%, 37,306 fewer cases). Also decreasing are crimes against weapons legislation (-12.5%) and crimes involving serious violence (homicides of various types and serious injuries), which have fallen by 6.8%.

On the contrary, crimes of dissemination of pornographic content (of children and young people), rising by 87.8%, and threats (+21.9%), are mainly increasing. On the other hand, somewhat surprisingly (especially considering the context of increased online activity), cybercrime (+12%) has risen less. Other increases are not quantitatively significant.

In line with the decrease in crimes, the number of detainees has also decreased (3.9%), both the number of German detainees (4.1%) and those of other nationalities (-3.6%). The crime clearance rate remains stable, with a slight downward trend (-0.3%).

In summary, these are crime trends that do not correspond to those of other neighbouring countries; while cybercrime has risen moderately (despite the significant growth of the digital world), property crime has gone down very sharply, and violent crime is down more moderately, but also significantly.


[1] See https://www.bka.de/DE/AktuelleInformationen/StatistikenLagebilder/PolizeilicheKriminalstatistik/PKS2021/pks2021_node.html;jsessionid=C1BF5345D19E9FB1E8769E30406A6CB4.live292

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Impact of gun violence in the U.S.

Each year, more than 40,000 Americans are killed in acts of gun violence and approximately 85,000 are injured by gunfire. This equates to more than 110 people shot and killed each day in the United States and more than 200 people injured by gunfire. But the trauma of gun violence doesn’t end when a shooting stops.

Across the United States, people from all walks of life have been affected by this public health epidemic. In a national survey, 58% of adults reported that they or someone they care for have experienced gun violence in their lifetime. In addition, millions of people are injured by gunfire, threatened with a gun, or witness an act of gun violence in their lifetime.

For this reason, Everytown for Gun Safety celebrates National Gun Violence Survivors Week every year in February.

Experiencing gun violence has lasting emotional, physical, legal and economic impacts on survivors and their communities. The breadth and diversity of the survivor experience is directly related to the wide-ranging nature of the U.S. gun violence crisis. Gun violence can take many forms, including gun suicides and suicide attempts, gun homicides and assaults, domestic violence involving a gun, school shootings, shootings by police, and unintentional shootings, among other incidents.

Identifying as a survivor of gun violence encompasses many different experiences: witnessing an act of gun violence, receiving threats with or being injured by a gun, or having an acquaintance or loved one injured or killed with a gun.

However, America’s culture of silence regarding gun violence means that too often we do not talk about or fully understand the lifelong impact on survivors.  One of the consequences of this silence is that many survivors do not receive the support and services they need to live with and overcome this trauma. To help break this silence, a survey of 650 survivors was conducted at the end of 2021. The data show the magnitude of the gun violence epidemic in the United States and the lasting impact on individuals and communities. The main findings include:

  • Nine out of 10 survivors of gun violence report being traumatised by the incident.
  • More than half of those who had experienced gun violence in the past year rated the trauma as 5 out of 5.
  • Nurses, doctors or hospital staff were the ones most likely to say they experienced the impact through their work, followed by staff working in schools.
  • Two-thirds of the injured survivors expressed the need for mental health services, therapy and support.
  • Nearly one in three survivors said they needed legal assistance as a victim or for the death of a family member.
  • One in three survivors said they needed financial support to help cover funeral or medical costs or to compensate for income lost due to death or injury.

Everytown Research & Policy presents the report divided into five sections that discuss the grief and pain of gun death, focusing primarily on the experiences of survivors.

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Would it be possible to abolish the police service in traffic safety in the United States?

During the month of April of this year the report Dismantling Law Enforcement’s Role in Traffic Safety: A Roadmap for Massachusetts was published. This study provides a vision and framework for moving towards police-free traffic safety.

Traffic stops are the most common form of contact between civilians and the police. A recent investigation by The New York Times found that, in the past five years, there were more than 400 deaths caused by police officers during traffic stops of people who were neither armed nor under pursuit for a violent crime.

Despite the obvious harm caused, there is growing evidence – according to the study – that traffic stops do not significantly reduce serious or fatal accidents. The report cites research by the Stanford Open Policing Project and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that highlights that, following the monitoring of 33 state patrols studied, they found no association between traffic stops and crash fatality rates.

During 2021, more than 38,000 people died in traffic accidents on U.S. roads. The report expresses a growing need to rethink the strategies used to make North American roads safer.

The report introduces a framework for assessing traffic offences for their impact on safety and concludes that many offences could be managed without police involvement or removed from the law altogether without any bearing on traffic safety. Different approaches in street design, technology and public policy could make it possible to build non-police alternatives for traffic safety.

The study offers several recommendations for municipalities and state agencies to reduce police involvement in traffic safety and provides alternatives that would be more effective in reducing serious and fatal crashes. Recommendations include, but are not limited to:

  • Proposing the prohibition of pretextual stops
  • Mandating traffic stop and crash data collection, analysis, and response
  • Increasing funding to improve infrastructure

The document also asks state legislators to promote legislation that includes:

  • Allowing municipalities to opt into automated traffic camera enforcement
  • Ending debt-based punitive measures for non-payment of traffic fines
  • Allowing residents to obtain driver’s licenses regardless of their immigration status

The proposed removal of traffic safety from the purview of all types of law enforcement, including the police and courts, would be no small change and significant transformations would be required in many areas of North American society and government.

With this in mind, the framework and recommendations included in this report take an approach that aims to reduce the harm and lessen the negative consequences of law enforcement involvement in traffic safety in the short term, while alternative systems would be built.

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The rapid rise of cybercrime in Switzerland

The 2021 crime data for Switzerland presents the increase in crimes that they call “digital offences” as the most noteworthy aspect. Cybercrimes amounting to a total of 30,351 were detected, a figure that represents an increase of 24% over the previous year and an average of 83 crimes per day. The vast majority, 88%, can be defined as economic cybercrime. Specifically, the largest increase can be found in cyberfraud or cyberscams. The most frequent offence is the non-distribution of paid products on small platforms (6,884), followed by identity theft in online payments (use of third party identity), (6,670).

In the area of violent crime, different scenarios can be identified depending on the type of crime. The lowest number of homicides was recorded since the beginning of the series in 1982, 42 homicides, with most of them (23; 54.8%) occurring in a domestic setting. Fifteen women and one man were murdered by their partners (current or former). Three of the deceased were children who died at the hands of a parent. On the other hand, criminal injury has remained stable compared to the previous year, with 1,665 cases, and sexual violence has increased significantly. Specifically, rape reached a total of 757 (44 more than in 2020) and is now the highest recorded figure in the last ten years.

Property crimes (non-digital) also included different behaviour: 31,186 home burglaries were recorded, which is 5% less than the previous year and confirms a downward trend since 2012. Additionally, street thefts and robberies (-1,912) and pickpocketing (-1,723) also experienced a decrease. Vehicle thefts/burglaries increased by 995 cases, as well as the theft of electric bicycles (8,919 cases, 47% more than the previous year), while classic bicycles, still a frequent object of theft (27,246), recorded a decrease of 11% in the last year.

82,284 people were arrested for committing criminal acts, of which 13.3% were minors and 15.9% were young adults (between 18 and 24 years of age). Both the number of adult detainees and the number of young adults decreased, while the number of juveniles increased (3.5%). Juveniles were mostly arrested for minor offences, such as damage or shoplifting, but the number arrested for violent crimes has continued its upward trend of recent years.

Source of information:

https://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/de/home.assetdetail.21324071.html

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The Covid-19 pandemic drives trade in counterfeit goods

The latest Intellectual Property Crime Threat Assessment produced jointly by Europol and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) reveals that the distribution of counterfeit goods has greatly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. The health crisis has presented new opportunities for the counterfeit trade, and criminals have adjusted their business models to meet their new global demand.

  • Criminal networks have quickly adapted to the new opportunities and demand for products generated by the pandemic.
  • Counterfeit cosmetics, food, pharmaceuticals, pesticides and toys pose a serious threat to consumer health.
  • Counterfeiting now relies heavily on the digital domain to source components and distribute the goods (tangible and non-tangible) to consumers through online platforms, social networks and instant messaging services.
  • The majority of counterfeit goods distributed in the European Union are produced outside the EU.

The report, based on EU-wide data and operational information from Europol, confirms that counterfeiting and piracy continue to pose a serious threat to health, security and also to the European economy. Imports of counterfeit goods amounted to €119 billion in 2019, accounting for 5.8% of all goods entering the European Union, according to the latest data from the OECD.

The assessment highlights that, although the majority of counterfeits in the EU market are produced outside the territory, mainly in China and other parts of Asia, manufacturing within the EU is a growing trend.

The increasing import of counterfeit packaging materials and semifinished products into the EU clearly indicates the presence of illegal manufacturing facilities in the EU. European-based criminal networks involved in intellectual property crime distribute imported counterfeits and, in some cases, operate in modern production facilities that assemble semifinished products.

The report provides data to understand the scope of this criminal phenomenon and calls for concerted action in response as we move into the post-COVID phase.

Prominent counterfeit items include mobile phones, and their accessories and components. They are sold in large quantities during events such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Furthermore, counterfeiters have recently been exploiting global supply shortages of semiconductor chips.

When it comes to perfumes and cosmetics, illicit production concerns everyday goods such as shampoo, toothpaste or detergent. The trade in illicit pesticides continues to be a low-risk, high-profit activity, due to high demand and low penalties for offenders.

The Covid-19 pandemic also led to an increased supply of illicit digital content, which is often linked to other cybercriminal activities. Piracy is now primarily a digital crime, and websites that illegally distribute audiovisual content are hosted on servers in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

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Police publish results of an expert review of facial recognition technology in New Zealand

An independent expert review has provided the New Zealand Police with detailed advice on opportunities and risks associated with the use of facial recognition technology (FRT).

In response to the review, conducted by Dr Nessa Lynch and Dr Andrew Chen, the police have decided that they will not use live facial recognition technology without further analysis, taking into account legal, privacy and human rights concerns, with a particular focus on the New Zealand context.

The police are now embarking on a response plan based on the 10 recommendations of the review to ensure the safety of police personnel and communities.

FRT is defined as anything that uses an image of a person’s face to help identify that person. The scope of this technology is growing and ranges from a one-to-one comparison (i.e., the SmartGate system at the border), to live automated FRT, sophisticated camera software that can identify multiple people in large crowds.

As confirmed by the review, police do not currently use live facial recognition technology.

The Police Response Plan will adopt the following 10 recommendations of the review:

1. Continue to pause any live FRT development.

2. Review the collection and current retention of facial images.

3. Continue to strengthen the process for ethical commissioning of technology.

4. Ensure ongoing governance and oversight of deployment.

5. Maintain collaboration with the Māori.

6. Maintain transparency.

7. Develop a policy statement on FRT surveillance in public places.

8. Implement guidelines for access to third-party systems.

9. Create a culture of ethical use of data in the organisation.

10. Implement an ongoing horizon scanning system.

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