The ongoing Covid-19 panademic is putting immense pressure on health and care systems, while restrictions on our daily lives have been put in place to varying degrees in many countries. Some researchers have raised how this may affect social cohesion in the future.
Henrik Andershed, professor of Criminology and Psychology at Örebro University (Sweden) has been raised the topic of how the pandemic may influence social situations and crime patterns. In an article in the Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, and in his youtube pod on crime prevention he has highlighted ten areas that need attention.
The message is to bear them in mind sooner rather than later. While restrictiosn may have led to a decrease in certain types of crimes, the effects of these restrictions and the consequences of the pandemic, such as higher unemployment, will raise other issues.
- Collaboration between the police, housing authorities, and local authorities social services are needed to map and analyse risk factors. Collaboration can be more effective if carried out in a systematic and analytical way in order to choose the right measures. A method used in many Swedish municipalities is called Effective Collaboration for Safety, which involves mapping locally local risk factors so that interventions can be locally designed accordingly.
- Focus on socially vulnerable areas, where ther is often a combination of risk factors such as high levels of unemployment, mental ill-health and drug and alcohol abuse. Restrictions imposed by the Corona crisis can lead to an increase in these risk factors and other risk factors for social unrest.
- Increase adult presence in socially vulnerable areas, particularly when schools are closed as the risks of increased vandalism and unrest increase. Adult presence should be increased both formally and informally. Formal adult presence means in the form of police, community workers, while informal refers to parents and other adult figures. This presence needs to be communicative and assuring and can work as an information channel on the effects of Covid-19 and how recommendations; for example, on social distancing need to be followed.
- Strengthen schools in using distance education using digital solutions, especially in the case of vulnerable children and families who may need support to use digital solutions.
- Ensure parents assume their role as parents and give them support, which may be difficult in times of stress and under pressure. This can be especially the case in socially vulnerable areas, where there might also be crowded living conditions. Parents can need support to set the right boundaries. Here social services can play help; for instance, with parental support.
- Organise and introduce meaningful activities as restrictions have meant that lots of adult-led and training activities are being cancelled. There is a need to try to provide meaningful activities to burn off energy and reduce risks.
- Keep alcohol consumption down, as excessive alcohol use is a risk factor and often contributes to violence. There are risks of an increase in domestic violence and child abuse when stress increases.
- Strengthen the link between social and mental health services, as the risk of mental health issues in the form of anxiety and depression increase in times of stress and unemployment. Depending upon how long current restrictions are in place these risks are likely to increase over time. There is a need to strengthen the interventions of social and mental health services and their collaboration.
- Ensure that food and medical supplies are functioning to reduce stress and pressure. This is particularly important for older people.
- Take preventive action by using a risk analysis and adopting a proactive approach. The idea is to act now rather than wait and react later.