Since the beginning of 2020, the world was confronted with the spread of COVID-19. The repercussions of the health crisis itself and the implementation of emergency measures were many and diverse. Health and safety challenges, as well as lifestyle changes, have affected different aspects of crime and the criminal justice system (e.g, police, courts, prisons, and probation). This exceptional historical period has prompted many researchers to analyze the evolution of the crisis originated by the pandemic and its consequences from different perspectives. During the online ESC conference in September 2020, several researchers presented papers related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This raised the idea of the ESC Working Group on Crime, Criminal justice, and the COVID-19 pandemic (WG CCJC). The group, established at the end of 2020, aims at facilitating research and dissemination of findings, and at encouraging collaborations across Europe. Among its specific objectives there are: a) Examining to what extent crime and the criminal justice systems have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis; b) Promoting knowledge and research on this topic among European researchers; c) Establishing comparative research across Europe ; d) Creating a network for information exchange, findings dissemination and international collaboration; e) Organizing regular meeting between the working group members as well as a specific panel at the ESC annual conference. As with any other ESC WG, the WG CJC is open to all ESC members who are involved or interested in research projects related to crime, criminal justice, and the COVID-19 pandemic. If you like to join the working group, please send an email stating your name, affiliation, and a brief description of the research project you are working on to email@example.com. Currently, 40 scholars from all over Europe joined the group and presented their work in thematic panels at the Eurocrim 2021 and Eurocrim 2022. For these first years, the group is co-chaired by Stefano Caneppele and Christine Burkhardt (University of Lausanne) with the support of Gian Maria Campedelli (University of Trento).
By the end of 2020, the Working Group has been active through meeting and dissemination activities. A website, hosted at the University of Lausanne, provides an update about our members concerning the news, research projects, publications, and scientific events. At least twice a year, we organize meetings to prepare the organization of prearranged panels.
For the 2021 ESC online conference, a total of 6 panels were presented under the CCJC section, comprising 21 presentations including topics on the impact of the pandemic on online frauds, corruption, policing, probation, and the correctional systems in several EU countries.
For the conference, we also produced two working papers that conducted systematic reviews on Covid-19. The first one investigated the main academic findings on crime trends and police published in English between February 2020 and July 2021 to review the time period investigated, the geographic area, the data used, the analytical strategies and the results (Jaccoud, Burkhardt, Caneppele, 2021). In total, we identified 128 manuscripts. Concerning crime trends, most of the results confirmed the drop and the U-shaped recovery for property crimes and street crimes in general while cybercrime and domestic violence seem to have increased during the lockdown. Concerning the police, it played an important role in ensuring that government health guidelines were enforced. The public’s trust in the police rose at the beginning of the crisis but the rise was only temporary. After the easing of the health guidelines, this trust declined as the police were still required to enforce some rules. The second review undertook a mapping of the ongoing projects related to COVID-19 (Ribeiro, Burkhardt, Caneppele, 2021). This research aimed to identify, using different keywords, all current projects carried out in English, French, German, Spanish or Portuguese. To be selected, the project had to (1) focus on the impact of COVID-19 on different areas of criminology, (2) be carried out in one of the five languages mentioned, and (3) be conducted by a legitimate research organization. Our results highlight the research question, the periods and geographical areas covered, and the methodologies used. In total, the keywords chosen were able to report on 68 projects in progress in various fields of criminology, such as prisons, policing, domestic violence, or cybercrime.
For the 2022 ESC conference in Malaga, a total of 11 panels with 48 presentations were held under our Working Group on a wide range of topics related to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on crime and the criminal justice system.
For the next months, we work on other events. In February 2023, we are planning a hybrid workshop hosted by colleagues of Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele Milano on “Rules and compliance in times of COVID-19”. The event, which is held three years after the first lockdowns in Italy, aims at stimulating a broader debate about the concepts of citizenship, rules, and democratic systems. In the forthcoming months, the Working Group continues to work on the arrangement of panels for the next ESC conference in Florence and plans to update the exercise done in 2021 on the academic publications and on criminological research projects which dealt with the impact of COVID-19 on crime and the criminal justice system. In Florence, we would be happy to discuss with our colleagues the future development of the group and its evolution: COVID-19 was a disruptor in many criminological fields, but, after the extraordinary momentum and the spike of the academic studies, we should already consider the legacy and the evolution of the group when, after some years, the interest towards the topic naturally could fade away.
Jaccoud, L., Burkhardt, C., Caneppele, S. (2021). COVID-19, Crime and Policing: A first snapshot of academic publishing on crime trends and police activity during COVID-19 academic. Research Brief, Series UNILCRIM, (5) 2021.
Ribeiro, S., Burkhardt, C., Caneppele, S., (2021). COVID-19, Crime and Criminal Justice: Mapping Criminological Research Projects around the World. Research Briefs, Series UNILCRIM, (7) 2021.