Crime collapses in coronavirus hitting Italy, but usurious loan jumps


ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s crime rate fell 66.6% in March, thanks to a government lockdown introduced to stop the coronavirus, the Interior Ministry said on Wednesday.

However, the ministry has warned that easing restrictions, which are to be lifted from May 4, could create space for organized crime gangs, as Mafiosi try to take advantage of companies fighting to stay afloat. .

Some 68,069 crimes were recorded across the country last month compared to 203,723 in March 2019.

The ministry did not provide details, noting only that domestic violence fell 37.4%, a smaller drop than the overall crime rate, while thefts from pharmacies, one of the few businesses allowed to remain open, fell 28.2%.

In contrast, reports of criminal loan sharking rose 9.1%, underscoring concern that struggling businesses and families would have to turn to illegal financing networks to make ends meet.

Italy introduced some of the toughest restrictions on daily living in the world last month as it struggled to contain a burgeoning coronavirus outbreak, closing schools and businesses across the country and telling people to stay at home.

The country has recorded nearly 27,700 deaths to date – the second-highest tally in the world after the United States.

Prosecutors told Reuters earlier this month that Italian mafia clans were taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to buy thanks to poor families facing financial ruin.

The Home Office warned in its statement that the Mafia would seek to tap into the stimulus funds that will be offered by the government and the European Union to revive the economy, which is set to suffer its worst recession since World War II. .

“It can foster corruption and illicit relationships between entrepreneurs, public officials and criminal organizations,” he said. The ministry added that it had ordered increased police surveillance in an attempt to prevent Mafia infiltrations.

He indicated that special attention would be given to “the agro-food chain, health infrastructure, the supply of medical equipment, the tourist hotel sector, catering and the small and medium-sized retail distribution sectors. companies “.

Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Alex Richardson

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