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Criminological Perspectives on the Pandemic

Updated: Apr 26, 2020



Rommel Manwong | LEAPS Academy Philippines

Juan Kirsten | Human Investigation Management (HIM)

April 2020 Edition


Criminality is eminently looming as ever before as we expect a downed economy given the simultaneous adverse effects of the pandemic on supply and demand. This involves a slow motion and a reduction of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) this 2020 and even beyond 2021 in the absence of effective mitigating measures.

The speed of change in the vulnerability landscape is so fast that any government memorandum or document has a life span of a few weeks, if not just in a few days. Therefore, a swift and appropriate response remains crucial in softening the blow of COVID-19, especially among the most vulnerable members of our society.

The solutions should turn this problem into a long-term constructive benefit to the country. Regardless of any person’s bias, we must consider things that work.

The links of crimes on issues around unemployment, informal settlers, and desperate individual should never be neglected as they matter in sustaining law and order and the economic growth of the country. The vulnerable class of people in our society, and those with a loss of purpose may turn into a massive collateral damage in the absence of proper government handling. There is a need to manage and limit the collateral damage because fighting this out mainly by the police and or the military is not going to work. In addition, mass imprisonment will cause even more chaos and have a damaging effect on people, and government resources as well. We really need to get a quicker resolution to win this war, and heal as one, then move on to the new normal.

Here are some criminological thoughts, which are valuable for government actions in mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on people, leading to controlling the potential cost of an increase of criminality. We believe these are very suitable with the economic down turn. All these issues must be constructively addressed for the unemployed, the displaced workers, the hungry, the emotionally desperate, drug dependents, and other sectors of society who are mentally unwell.

  1. Maximize Local Government Initiatives - The Local Government Units (LGUs) - in every barangay, which is the basic unit of our society, leaders should immediately spearhead activities to identify households within their respective units, that are in need of immediate response – the poor communities and the homeless individuals. Each barangay must be able to put into records those very poor families, and property tag them as priority pandemic response target areas. A comprehensive public health security plan and a pandemic incident management program must be initiated at their own level, primary from any national government assistance.

  2. Ease the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) or Lockdown - The pronouncement of the government of either lifting the ECQ or modify it by the end of this month - April 2020, must be carefully thought about and deliberated upon by our strategic leaders. It is crucial to ease the community quarantine on different areas of the country where there are only few confirmed cases, but imposed social distancing protocols. This will allow a slow movement of the socioeconomic aspect of life in those places and will be beneficial in the healing process.

  3. Keep up with Massive Distribution of Food Parcels - Although this has been prioritized, the Department of Social Welfare Development (DSWD) should double its effort to distribute the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), which is a National government initiative. All ongoing relief operations must continue, allowing more donors from the private sectors, and other help from the international community. Appropriate handling of goods and items on this matter must be ensured, providing a system for accountability.

  4. Hospitality Industry must be Utilized - Hotels can be utilized for quarantine purposes. Quarantine areas can be sectioned for 14-21 days in hotels – single rooms for ICU, and double sized rooms for individuals. The City of Pasig in Metro Manila has maximized this initiative and therefore can be modelled upon by other cities in Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao, and other cities around the country.

  5. Keep up with Livelihood and Financial Assistance - With a forecast of losses incurred by companies would severely impact their businesses, layoffs, particularly among non-essential workers will be high. Although the Department of Labor has assured of providing displaced workers with livelihood and financial assistance, this must be strengthened and monitored.

  6. Review on Imposing No-termination Policy - Instead of outright termination or total closure of establishment, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued guidelines on implementing flexible working hours for employers to follow. The objective is to help both employers and employees get over the hump caused by the coronavirus. But the effectiveness of such flexible work arrangements should be reviewed so that its temporary nature could be arranged into a regular policy and to be imposed upon companies and business establishments.

  7. Encourage Farming and Cultural Product Production - The Department of Agriculture (DA) must maximize and mobilized its resources for a solid campaign to encourage backyard farming and agribusiness. People can be taken to farming areas that can provide accommodation, food, education and work opportunities. The model to consider on this is the Kibbutz model in Israel. These are safe havens that are fully supported by the state and residents also earn money for their own preferences. These are sort of small socialistic communities that can host and feed the hungry besides providing them education not only in farming but in many other fields. Many of them are food producers, but small industries can be found on some of them. An important consideration for such, would be to use some of them to easily produce building products such as bricks, windows and lentils besides roof tiles or any other product related to housing, aside from other cultural products. Such initiatives can be developed with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

  8. Drug and Alcohol Addiction related must be addressed - The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) should be mobilized to keep up not only on enforcement services but also enhanced education and rehabilitation efforts. Those drug dependents taken into quarantine areas can be sectioned into rehabilitation camps for at least 6 months, as per mandate of the law. These camps must be properly staffed and provided appropriate medication and support.

  9. Impose Conflict Management on the Ground - While maximum tolerance among our public safety officers is being practiced and in place, but desperate people remained a problem for they can be dangerous to fight back. They must be handled through peaceful resolution at its best. Proper handling of conflict must be briefed among personnel and frontliners.

  10. Mental Health Services - This type of service is often neglected and under prioritized. But now, with the current state of affairs, people are under anxiety and heavy stresses. Behavioral problems, leading to criminal behavior, will be a common threat if not properly addressed. Mental health services must be maximized and shall be undertaken by mental health first responders with appropriate facilities for housing. Private entities working in the field of psychology and psychiatry can be mobilized, encouraged and be called upon for assistance.

  11. Education and Training ServicesThe Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Education (DEPED) must swiftly provide a system of learning-at-home scheme. If a work-at-home have been implemented and are working well, these government agencies must take the immediate call and set out regulatory measures and guidelines for online learning approaches. Lifelong Learning providers have already set up their own long-distance learning schemes ahead of time. The issue of slow internet connection as well as the technical know-how to follow online instructions, by students and teachers can be coordinated with the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) for technical solutions. Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) has already spearheaded some tested and evaluated online programs for the stakeholders. Such could be modelled by CHED and DEPED.

  12. Transportation Services – The Department of Transportation (DOTr) must spearhead programs to help ease the traffic problems once lockdown is lifted. The monster traffic problem of Metropolitan Manila has been tremendously lessened, as a natural impact of the lockdown, but this will just be temporary. The plan to decongest Metro Manila must continue and shall impose new methods such as encouraging people about the “provincial advantage” – work within own province or locality. DOLE can help promote this decongestion method by revising existing wage system to a more competitive wage system - a provincial wage rate better and against Metro Manila rates, to encourage people to stay and work in the provinces.

  13. Security and Law Enforcement - While the pandemic is going on, policing must also be assessed and evaluated. After the pandemic, the inclusion of a public health security enforcement policy must be introduced. In the meantime, our government leaders must rethink on policing practices on crowd management and enforcement relative to stop and frisk, use of arrest and dealing with offenses such as jaywalking, turnstile jumping, alcohol or narcotic possession among other trivial crimes. Lessons learned in police management and best practices in law enforcement must be carried out, to say, a new paradigm in policing is set in.

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