After the Italian government placed the entire country under a coronavirus lockdown, the crime rate dropped by 2/3 (or 66.6%, as Reuters reports) vs. the same month last year, according to a Wednesday statement by the interior ministry.
There were 68,069 crimes registered across the country in March vs. 203,723 the previous year.
The ministry did not provide details, noting only that domestic violence fell 37.4%, a smaller drop than the overall crime rate, while robberies at pharmacies, one of the few businesses allowed to stay open, dropped 28.2%. -Reuters
That said, the ministry also warned that once restrictions are lifted - which could be as soon as Monday - organized gangs could try to take advantage of struggling Italians.
To that end, reports of criminal loan-sharking jumped 9.1% according to the report, indicating that those who cannot obtain traditional financing are turning to illegal lending networks to make ends meet.
Earlier this month, prosecutors told Reuters that Italian mafia clans were taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak to ingratiate themselves with low income families, while The Guardian reported nearly three weeks ago that videos have surfaced of known Mafia gangs distributing free food to quarantined families who have run out of cash.
"For over a month, shops, cafés, restaurants and pubs have been closed," said Nicola Gratteri - head of the Catanzaro prosecutor's office and antimafia investigator according to The Guardian. "Millions of people work in the grey economy, which means that they haven’t received any income in more than a month and have no idea when they might return to work. The government is issuing so-called shopping vouchers to support people. If the state doesn’t step in soon to help these families, the mafia will provide its services, imposing their control over people’s lives."
To date, Italy has suffered more than 27,000 deaths and over 200,000 infections.
The Interior Ministry also warned that the mafia would try to tap into recovery funds offered by the EU to revive the death-spiraling economy, which Reuters notes is expected to be the worst recession wince WWII.
"This may favor corruption and illicit relations between entrepreneurs, public officials and criminal organizations," the Ministry said, adding that it had beefed up police monitoring to try and prevent the mafia from taking advantage of the situation. In particular, " the agro-food chain, health infrastructure, the supply of medical equipment, the hotel tourism sector, catering and the retail distribution sectors of small and medium-sized companies" will be kept under close watch.