Newcastle Herald: NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller warns of post-Covid crime wave

The police are warning that crime could surge once the epidemic eases if there is a recession.

New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told an audience of politicians, including state deputy premier, John Barilaro, that the force was keeping a close eye on trends as the country comes out of danger from the virus.

“If you can’t afford to feed your family, you may turn to crime,” he warned. “These are some of the harsh realities of life.”

Commissioner Fuller said he was worried about a situation when “people hadn’t had employment for months”.

Unemployment has been falling recently so his fears may be unfounded but, on the other hand, measures to prop up the jobs market, like the $90 billion JobKeeper program, are coming to an end or have come to an end (JobKeeper ceased at the end of March).

As the epidemic unfolded, the federal government tore up its previous rules about tight public spending. It’s not clear if there will eventually be a reversion to fiscal toughness.

The chief police officer’s fears stem from what happened in the recession in 1990.

He said earlier that his force was doing “an enormous amount of work with government” to analyse the impact of that recession. Two years after it, he said, “crime went through the roof”.

“We are looking for any indication which might get people to turn to crime,” Commissioner Fuller said.

During the epidemic, a whole range of what the police call person to person crime fell as the country locked down. The picture was similar across states and territories.

Some of the reason for the fall was clear – when more people became stuck at home after March last year, there was less opportunity for burglary or street robbery; fewer people out in the open may have meant less opportunity for assault; the closure of pubs and clubs may have led to less drink-fueled crime.

Commissioner Fuller voiced his fears of a crime wave at the official opening of the new $31 million police station in Queanbeyan. The building which replaces the old police station on the same site was described by him and other dignitaries as a “high-tech facility”, a “state of the art building” and “phenomenal”.

One of its innovations is much more use of video equipment.

The police feel that CCTV in cells protects officers from false allegations of ill treatment as well as the prisoners themselves. The audio-visual link enables prisoners to “appear” in court remotely, perhaps as post-Covid unease about physical contact remains.

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