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Data: Registered crimes increased by 28% in the lockdown year 2020 but there is a catch

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The NCRB recently released the ‘Crime in India (CII) – 2020’ report. The data indicates that the total number of crimes registered in 2020 increased by 28% compared to 2019, that too in a year with COVID-19 containment measures such as lockdowns. However, this increase is not reflective of the overall increase in crime. Here is why. 

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) recently released the 68th edition of the ‘Crime in India (CII)’ report for the year 2020. The CII 2020 report assumes significance due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. Measures taken in the year 2020 to contain the spread of COVID-19 like lockdowns, curfews, etc. were unprecedented and therefore could have had an impact on the number of crimes and the nature of crimes registered. 

Among the various indicators provided in NCRB’s CII report, ‘Crime rate’ is a key indicator that provides a realistic picture of the prevalence of crime. Crime rate indicates the number of crimes registered per lakh population, hence is a better indicator to compare rates different entities like states, cities, districts, etc., irrespective of the size of the population. It is to be noted that the numbers in the CII report only indicate the number of crimes registered by the police and do not necessarily reflect the number of crimes actually committed. Nevertheless, these numbers are good enough to understand broad trends. 

In this story, we look at the trends in the overall crime rate and across various crimes in the year 2020 and compare them with the previous years. 

An overall increase in the Crime rate in 2020 compared to previous years 

As per the information provided in CII 2020 report, a total of 66.01 lakh crimes were registered in the year 2020. This is significantly higher than the number of crimes registered in the earlier years, which was 51.56 lakhs (2019) & 50.74 lakhs (2018). In other words, the total number of registered crimes increased by around 28% in 2020. 

The increase in the number of crimes registered during 2020 is largely due to the increase in the number of Crimes registered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The number of crimes registered under IPC increased from 32.25 lakhs in 2019 to 42.54 lakhs in 2020, an increase of about 32%. 

The overall Crime Rate in 2020 is 487.8 (per lakh population), compared to 385.5 in 2019. The increase in the crime rate for 2020 is much higher than what was observed in 2019. The higher growth rate is contributed by an increase in crime rates across both IPC and Special & Local Laws (SLL) crimes. 

The crime rate of IPC crimes increased from 241.1 to 314.3 in 2020, while the SLL crime rate increased from 144.3 in 2019 to 173.4 in 2020.

Offences related to COVID-19 related enforcement contributed towards an increase in the IPC crime rate

While the overall crime rate for crimes registered under IPC has increased, the trends vary for each of the crimes. 

  • ‘Theft’ accounts for a major share of IPC-related crimes. In 2019, the national crime rate for Theft was 50.4 which reduced to 36.4 in 2020. Burglary reduced from 7.5 to 6.4.
  • Similarly, the crime rate for ‘Rash Driving’ fell from 31.2 in 2019 to 23.1 in 2020. The fall in the crime rate under these two categories is understandable because of the lockdown measures in place during 2020, which ensured most people stayed at home and the movement of people was restricted. 
  • The crime rate for ‘Assault on Women’ decreased from 13.6 in 2019 to 13 in 2020. The crime rate in the case of rape decreased from 4.9 to 4.3 while for Cruelty by Husband or his relatives also decreased from 19.2 in 2019 to 17 per lakh in 2020. 
  • The crime rate for murder remained the same at 2.2 while the attempt to murder increased from 3.8 in 2019 to 4.3 in 2020. The crime rate for ‘Death by negligence’ fell from 10.9 to 9.4 during this period. 
  • ‘Hurt’ which is an offence against the human body, is another major contributor to crime under IPC whose crime rate increased from 40.8 in 2019 to 42.8 in 2020. There is also a fall in the crime rate for Kidnapping & abduction from 7.9 in 2019 to 6.3 in 2020. 
  • The crime rate for ‘Forgery, Cheating & Fraud’ also came down from 10.7 to 9.4 whereas the crime rate for ‘Bank related frauds’ increased from 0.2 to 0.3, as well as those relating to Credit/Debit cards from 0.1 in 2019 to 0.2 in 2020. 

While the crime rates have fallen for most of these crimes under IPC, the overall increase can be majorly attributed to one specific crime – ‘Disobedience to order by a Public Servant’. The crime rate under this category of crime increased from 2.2 in 2019 to 45.2 in 2020, an increase of more than 20 times. Even the number of crimes registered under this category increased from around 29 thousand in 2019 to 6.12 lakh in 2020. The sudden spike in this category of crime is due to the violation of COVID-19 containment measures such as lockdowns. The CII report also states that this is due to the COVID-19 related enforcement of the lockdown & social-distancing measures. 

Apart from these, there is ambiguity about the nature of IPC crimes which have contributed to an increase in the Crime rate of IPC crimes. A total of 10.62 lakh cases of crime are listed under ‘Other IPC crimes’ in 2020 which accounts for a quarter of the total crimes registered under IPC for 2020, translating to a crime rate of 78.5 in 2020, more than four times the crime rate in 2019 which was only 18.9. In the year 2018, it was 16.8. 

Ambiguity on the increase in Crime rate for SLL crimes

In the cases registered under various provisions of SLL, a major variation between 2020 & 2019 is for the crimes related to the ‘Motor Vehicle Act’. The crime rate fell from 15.2 to 4.1 for this category. This can be attributed to the lockdown & social distancing measures relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has restricted vehicular movement. 

The crime rate for cases registered under various ‘Crime Against Women’ related acts fell from 2.4 in 2019 to 1.8 in 2020. This is largely contributed by the fall in crime rate for cases registered under the ‘The Dowry Prohibition Act’, which fell from 2 in 2019 to 1.6 in 2020. 

The crime rate for crimes under IT Act fell from 2.3 to 2.2. Meanwhile, the report states that the overall cybercrime increased by 11.8% in 2020, which contributed towards an increase in the crime rate for Cybercrime from 3.3 in 2019 to 3.7 in 2020. 

The crime rate for cases registered under ‘The Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act’ (COTPA) more than doubled from 1.7 in 2019 to 3.7 in 2020. The number of cases registered under this act in 2020 was close to 50,000. 

Although the numbers are less, the crime rate for cases registered under the ‘Essential Commodities Act’ increased from 0.3 in 2019 to 0.5 in 2020, which is a result of the COVID-19 related lockdown. The crime rate for cases registered under the ‘Excise Act’ increased from 21.7 in 2019 to 22.8 in 2020.  

As is the case with IPC, crimes listed under ‘Other State Local Acts’ had an increased crime rate of 30.6 in 2020 compared to just 6.7 in 2019. Further, the crime rate for cases registered under ‘Other SLL Crimes’ increased from 6 to 25 in 2020, making it difficult to ascertain the exact nature of crimes or the act under which these increased number of cases were registered. 

Tamil Nadu reported the highest increase in the Crime Rate, followed by Gujarat 

Like the variation in crime rates across the different crimes, the crime rates in 2020 also varied across states. Tamil Nadu reported the Highest Crime Rate (IPC + SLL) for the year 2020 with 1808.5 crimes per lakh population. It took Delhi’s position from 2019 as the State/UT with the highest crime rate. Tamil Nadu’s crime rate almost tripled in 2020 compared to 2019 when it was only 600.3 per lakh population. A major portion of the increase in Crime Rate in Tamil Nadu for 2020, is under ‘Other IPC Crimes’, making it difficult to ascertain the exact nature of crimes in Tamil Nadu that contributed to this significant increase. 

Delhi’s crime rate fell from 1586 in 2019 to 1309 in 2020. Rajasthan is the only other major state with a fall in crime rate. As highlighted earlier, there is an overall increase in the crime rate at the national level. Apart from Tamil Nadu, Gujarat & Kerala are the other states which have contributed towards this increase. Andhra Pradesh also reported a slight increase in the crime rate for 2020. 

Gujarat & Maharashtra were among the states which reported a higher crime rate under ‘Disobedience to order duly promulgated by Public Servant’ most of which are lockdown-related crimes. 

The crime rate for ‘Assault on women’ increased in many States 

A snapshot of important trends across the States related to various crimes reveals the following. 

  • The increase in the crime rate for ‘Hurt’ is driven by an increase in the States of – Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha & Telangana. The cases registered under this category saw a decline in Kerala & Assam. 
  • While there is a decline in the crime rate related to ‘Assault on Women’ at the National level, the trend is not uniform across the states. Data for 2019 & 2020 shows that the crime rate relating to ‘Assault on Women’ has increased in many of the States. 
    • The overall decline at the National level to a large extent is due to the decrease in crime rate relating to ‘Assault on Women’ in Kerala & Goa. While the exact reasons for this decline are not known, the impact on tourism could be one of the reasons for this reduction, especially in Goa.  
    • An increase in the instances of ‘Assault on Women’ was one of the concerns highlighted due to lockdown measures. While the national average presents a different picture, the trends in a few of the states reflect these concerns. 
    • Even in the case of Kerala, while the overall Crime rate under ‘Assault on Women’ (IPC Section 354) has reduced, the crime rate under ‘Sexual Harassment’, especially under ‘Other Place’ (Other than Work, Public space, shelter homes, etc.) has increased. 

National Picture is not reflective of the trends across States

As the data indicates, the trend at the national level of an increase or decrease of various crimes is not reflected uniformly across states. The trends in a few of the states have contributed significantly to the national rate. A detailed analysis of the data at the State, district & City level for some of the important crimes could present a more accurate picture. 

Featured Image: Registered crimes in India during Lockdown 2020

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