The diversion of police attention to enforcing lockdown restrictions is expected to result in an increase in domestic cannabis cultivation, according to a report from the Belgrade Centre for Security and Policy.
The report entitled “Crime in the Western Balkans Six at the Time of Coronavirus: Early Findings” analysed instances of crime in the first six weeks of lockdown, as well as other implications on society.
It found that the region experienced an increase in the price of marijuana which is still “very much present on the market”. It found that there is very little heroin available. Price gouging, internet scams and robbery were prevalent across the area. In terms of human trafficking, there has been an increase in the number of calls to organisations providing assistance relating to human trafficking.
At the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, Albanian police seized 613kg of cannabis in the north of the country. During the crisis, there has been the usual number of arrests with no increase for narcotics or drug trafficking. Most arrests have been related to those who failed to observe movement restrictions.
Police have also been occupied dealing with instances of price gouging, or artificial inflation to profit from increased demand for a number of items. A number of shop owners have been arrested or had their licenses taken away due to putting up prices as the pandemic took hold.
In terms of trafficked persons, there were no reports of arrivals in Albania but refugees were found on the streets of Tirana and were even fed by army personnel.
The report noted that governments should pay particular attention to vulnerable groups during this time. These include those with drug and alcohol problems, living with HIV, susceptible to stress, with mental health conditions, pensioners, the poor, the homeless, and recently released prisoners. State institutions and civil society should inform them how to overcome the infection period without serious consequences, according to the recommendations of the report.
They should also take steps to provide replacement therapies for heroin addicts before it disappears from the market.
Police services and regulatory agencies for electronic communication should step up information to the general public, especially pensioners and parents, about internet safety and all possible forms of fraud, digital harassment, identity theft, as well as stalking and surveillance through social media. In addition, they should regularly inform the public about new methods of internet abuse during a pandemic.
The report predicts there will be a decline in the supply and quality of illegal drugs and traffickers will find alternative ways of distributing narcotics. This could include the use of couriers, mobile technologies and the corruption of law enforcement. It is also expected that gangs will launder money in the production and distribution of medical and protective equipment, and much will go uninvestigated as it will not be considered a priority.