Criminals who exploit Denmark's coronavirus emergency for personal gain through theft or who predate on the public with crisis-related scams must face double the usual punishment, two of the country's political heavyweights have proposed.
The proposal is largely inspired by the recent “ghetto package”, which among other things has introduced double punishment for crimes committed in blighted areas designated as ghettos in a crackdown against hotbeds of violence.
To justify their proposal, liberal-conservative Venstre's vice leader, legal rapporteur and former Immigration Minister Inger Støjberg and Peter Skaarup, her colleague from the national-conservative Danish People's Party cited a series of cases where elderly citizens have been swindled or robbed by criminals posing as healthcare professionals under the the pretext of coronavirus measures. Furthermore, hospitals had to hire security guards because of soaring theft of protective gear such as masks and hand sanitiser.
Støjberg described the epidemic-related crimes as a “terrible disgrace” and suggested the double punishment would give courts and the police “the tools to strike hard again”.
“Crimes happen every now and then, so the double punishment must be used now. But it will act pre-emptively if riots and disorder occur in the streets. Unfortunately, we have seen that in connection with other crises,” Støjberg told the newspaper Berlingske.
Støjberg stressed that the measures were about establishing a “sense of justice”. “These are people who cynically exploit a crisis. It has to be punished extra hard,” she said.
“The health care system is in a very tight spot, so when you steal, say, from hospitals, you endanger human life,” she explained.
In saying so, Støjberg received “unconditional support” from the Danish People's Party.
“All the fraud and theft related to the corona crisis is reprehensible. It is an aggravating circumstance, so double punishment will be in its place,” the party's group chairman Peter Skaarup said.
The sponsors called on lawmakers to urgently green-light their proposal, so that it take effect within a week, and it has won the support of Social Democrat Justice Minister Nick Hækkerup.
“I am ready to discuss all relevant tools to tackle the criminals who are exploiting the current crisis. Therefore, I think it is a good proposal that Venstre are coming up with, and I will take initiative to discuss it with the parties,” Hækkerup said.
The past weekend, the Danish police sent out an SMS-warning about the coronavirus crisis to millions of Danes.
“Coronavirus is spreading right now in Denmark. Keep your distance and pay attention, even when the sun shines. Otherwise, we can't stop the infection. Have a good weekend,” the police said.
According to the Danish State Serum Institute, the Danish Realm has over 1,700 confirmed cases of coronavirus, of them 1,591 in Denmark, 122 in the Faroe Islands and 4 in Greenland. So far, 32 Danes have perished in the epidemic.
Worldwide, the coronavirus stemming from the Chinese province of Hubei has infected over 372,000 people in over 190 nations. While over over 18,000 people have died from the virus, close to 110,000 have successfully recovered.