Lebanon’s murder and theft crimes have increased by 144 percent amid the ongoing national crisis compared to the same period last year, according to a study conducted by the Beirut-based research and consultancy firm International Information.
Data collected from the Internal Security Forces (ISF) found that homicides have increased sharply by 45.5 percent this year across the country during the months of January and February 2021. The death toll reached 32 compared to 22 in the same period in 2020.
The firm also confirmed that theft crimes increased by 144 percent during January and February 2021 compared to the same period last year.
“It’s not surprising at all that violent crime rates increased during world-historical public health and economic crisis, as inequality in the country, along with despair has skyrocketed,” Pierre al-Khoury, a public affairs researcher and member of the Board of Directors of the Lebanese Economic Association, told Al Arabiya English. “Lebanon now is a perfect example of systematic and planned crimes like drug dealing, money laundering, and stealing from people.”
A victim of the ongoing theft saga said she had parked her car in a busy area thinking it would be safe, only to have her backpack stolen from the vehicle soon after.
“I came back to find the back windows of the car smashed, and my backpack was taken,” Lama Hajj told Al Arabiya English. “This made me realize that things are rapidly changing in Lebanon, and it is no longer the country we all know and once felt safe at.”
Lebanon’s local currency has continuously crashed and lost over 90 percent of its value since October 2019.
The economic crisis has pushed half the population into poverty, with stories circulating daily about fights breaking out between people in supermarkets over subsidized products, which are at an all-time low.
Lebanon also has seen average salaries plummet by 84 percent over the past twelve months.
Minimum wage drops
Prior to the current economic crisis, a law passed in 2017 set the minimum wage at LBP 675,000, equivalent to $450. At this time, the dollar was priced at the old official rate of 1,500 LBP. The minimum wage has now dropped to $45.
According to the Central Administration of Statistics, hyperinflation hit 84.9 percent in 2020, compared to 2.9 percent in 2019. Consumer prices jumped 145.8 percent in December in comparison to the same month of 2019.
The chaos has become so pronounced that even the authorities have begun to acknowledge that the country’s lawbreakers are no longer in their control. Speaking in an interview with the local VDL News earlier this month, the Lebanese Minister of Interior Mohammed Fahmy warned of lawlessness as security forces hit rock bottom.
“The country’s security forces are drained and unable to fulfil their duties as a financial meltdown and political deadlock bite,” Fahmy said as he blamed political parties that were unable to agree on a national rescue plan.
The problem appears not only in the difficulty of finding a winning strategy in the long war against acts of crimes but having to face economic constraints that loom large in the public debate.