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Overall Q1 Crime Figures in Hong Kong Soared by Nearly 50% Year-on-year

On Dec. 28, 2022, the Hong Kong police discovered two drug storage warehouses in Yuen Long District in Hong Kong and seized 424 kilograms of cocaine with a market value of about HK$366 million (US$46 million). (Sung Pi-long/The Epoch Times).

According to statistics just released by the Hong Kong Police, the total number of crimes in the first three months of this year reached 20,584, an increase of 6,718 cases compared to the same period last year, translating to year-on-year growth of 48.4 percent.

Deception topped the list with 8,886 cases recorded in the first quarter, a significant surge of 65.2 percent compared to 5,378 cases in the same period last year.

Triad-related crimes also substantially increased from 296 to 503 cases, representing a 69.9 percent increase.

Following closely behind is the category of “theft,” which recorded 5,340 cases in the first quarter, showing a 45.2 percent increase compared to 3,678 cases in the same period last year.

Epoch Times Photo In the first quarter of 2023, deception, theft, and miscellaneous cases reached 8,886, 5,340, and 2,909, showing a significant surge of 65.2 percent,  45.2 percent, and 59.6 percent compared to the same period in 2022, respectively. (Nathan Amery/The Epoch Times)

The highest growth is “pickpocketing” within the theft category, which increased from 45 to 94 cases, representing a surge of 108.9 percent.

Additionally, two cases of “goldsmith/watch shop robberies” were recorded in the first three months of 2023, compared to none in the same period in 2022.

Epoch Times Photo The graph shows the annual growth rate of “pickpocketing,” “indecent assault,” “triad-related crimes,” and “goldsmith/watch shop robberies” cases. (Nathan Amery/The Epoch Times)

With Beijing ending its zero-covid policy and the border with Hong Kong gradually reopened since the beginning of this year, the number of arrests involving mainland Chinese visitors had dramatically jumped from 37 individuals in Q1 2022 to 266 individuals in Q1 2023, an increase of over 600 percent.

Furthermore, the number of juvenile offenders aged 10 to 15 increased from 157 individuals in the first three months of last year to 305 individuals in the same period this year, demonstrating a growth of 94.3 percent.

Epoch Times Photo The graph shows the number of arrests involving mainland Chinese visitors, arrests involving visitors from other countries, and juvenile offenders aged 10 to 15. (Nathan Amery/The Epoch Times)Chris Tang down play concerns over the increases in crime rates

At the Fight Crime Committee (DFCC) meeting on May 15, Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung explained to the media, in his opening speech, that the significant increase in Hong Kong’s overall crime rate this year compared to the same period of 2022 is mainly influenced by two factors. 

Firstly, deception cases surged over 65 percent compared to 2022, which accounted for more than 40 percent of overall crime in Q1 2023.

Secondly, strict social distancing measures during the fifth wave of the pandemic had resulted in decreased level of social activities and significantly lowered numbers of traditional crimes, such as theft, armed robbery, burglary, etc. in the first quarter of 2022, which in turn resulted in the high figures of year-on-year crime rate increases of Q1 2023. 

Tang also suggested that the upward trend in deception cases is not an unique problem to Hong Kong, as Singapore and London have also experienced similar increases, of around 35 percent and of 50 percent.

With the society returning to normal, crime rates rebounding to pre-pandemic levels is to be expected, Tang added.

2020 police report showed lower overall crime rates pre-pandemic

However, a 2020 report compiled by the police for the Legislative Council revealed that during the pre-pandemic years of 2018 and 2019, the Q1  overall crime rates were actually even lower than 2022, during the worst months of the “fifth wave”. 

Epoch Times Photo The overall crime in Hong Kong increased dramatically by 48.4 percent year-on-year, for the first quarter of 2023, after the reopening of the border between Hong Kong and mainland China.  (Nathan Amery/The Epoch Times)

The report also show the overall crime in the first quarter of 2018 and 2019 were 12,799 and 12,776 cases respectively, significantly lower than the 20,584 cases recorded in the first quarter of 2023, and the 13,566 cases in the same period of 2022.

As for deception, the 2020 report did not provide breakdown by the quarters, but figures for the whole year of 2018 and 2019 were 8,372 and 8,216 cases respectively, while the number of cases in the first three months of 2022 reached 5,378, in Q1 of 2023 the number jumped to 8,886, exceeding the whole year figures of 2018 and 2019. 

Mainland visitors arrested for crime bounced back to pre-pandemic level

Andrew To Kwan-hang, former chairman of the League of Social Democrats, questioned Chris Tang’s explanations on the YouTube channel “hkpeanut” the same day, that Tang did not mention, or had played down, other possible causes for the sharp increases in the Q1 2023 crime rates, such as impact of the stagnated economy, and the reopening of the mainland Chinese border.

Andrew To also suggested that some grassroots citizens who lacked sufficient income may resort to risky behaviors, such as those previously employed in the catering and retail industries who have lost their jobs.

One set of figures did perfectly demonstrate a simple “return to normal” to the pre-pandemic year, as Chris Tang suggested, which is that of mainland visitors arrested for crime. The number is 266 for Q1 2023, although seemed an alarming increase from 37 for Q1 2022, does look normal compared to 371 for Q1 2018 and 466 for Q1 2019.

Commentator: Government should disclose detailed deception figures

On his “Ng Sam” YouTube channel on May 16, Ng Chi Sum, veteran TV and radio host and political commentator on a long running RTHK current affair program, also expressed deep concern over the dramatic increases in crime rates in 2023, and the worry that deception cases were serious even during the pandemic.

He suggested that the government should disclose the detailed breakdown of the 8,886 deception cases, including the specific types of scams, such as phone scams involving the impersonation of mainland Chinese officials.

Ng questioned whether the surge in deception cases is related to the changing political and social atmosphere, causing citizens who answer phone calls to become increasingly fearful and susceptible to scams.

Chris Tang revealed on May 15 that over 70 percent of deception cases in the first quarter of 2023 were related to online scams,  phone scams in particular saw a 76 percent increase compared to same period of 2022, while  online romance scams, another common area of public concern, recorded a decrease of about 16 percent. @