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Coronavirus: France records sharp drop in crime during lockdown

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Municipal police officers patrol in a street of Sceaux during nationwide confinement measures to counter the Covid-19, in Sceaux, south of Paris, Wednesday, April 8, 2020.
Municipal police officers patrol in a street of Sceaux during nationwide confinement measures to counter the Covid-19, in Sceaux, south of Paris, Wednesday, April 8, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Thibault Camus
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Recorded cases of thefts, sexual violence and burglaries have fallen across France since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, official statistics show.

The latest set of weekly delinquency figures released on Thursday by the Ministry of Interior also shows that crime figures rose last week as the country prepared to ease lockdown restrictions first introduced on March 17.

The most noticeable decline pertained to non-violent thefts on people with some 4,000 victims identified last week, down from 12,000 during the same week in 2019 and nearly 14,000 in the first week of March.

Thefts involving vehicles have meanwhile more than halved since the beginning of March to reach 4,500 last week. Law enforcement noted, however, that this represented a "significant" rise from the previous week when fewer than 4,000 instances had been recorded.

The number of victims of sexual violence, which was higher in the first week of March compared to the same period in 2019, has since fallen below last year's tally. Last week, law enforcement counted 550 victims (-350 year-on-year).

Cases of violent thefts on people and burglaries have also dropped significantly year-on-year, falling by 1,100 and 2,400 respectively although the later one increased slightly from the previous week.

The report from the ministry also notes that instances of assault and battery on people aged over 15, which halved from nearly 6,000 to below 3,000 between March 9 and March 29, have since been steadily rising. Last week, 4,200 such victims were recorded, down from 4,800 during the same period in 2019.

But the gap is even narrower for instances of assault and battery between members of the same family. Law enforcement counted 2,200 victims of intrafamilial violence last week, just 100 fewer than the same week in 2019 and 200 more than the previous week.

Contrary to the other types of crime inventoried by the ministry, the curve for intrafamilial violence has not been under 2019 levels throughout the whole confinement period and was actually higher for most of April.

France introduced a strict lockdown on March 17 to contain the spread of COVID-19, confining all non-essential workers to their home and only allowing trips to supermarkets and medical facilities. Those found to be flouting the rules were fined.

The country started lifting restrictions on May 11 but cross-country travel remains restricted while gatherings of more than 10 people are banned. Cafés, restaurants and bars remain closed and employees who can have been urged to continue working from home.

As of Tuesday, nearly 27,000 people have lost their lives to the novel coronavirus in France and more than 178,300 cases have been recorded, according to a tally kept by the Johns Hopkins University. This makes it the world's fourth most impacted country after the US, the UK, and Italy.