Thieves steal surgical masks. A clinic sells fake COVID-19 tests. Hate groups encourage sick members to infect law enforcement officers. Imposters pose as public health officials. Con artists peddle fake cures and financial scams.
As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, so too do the crimes related to it — transgressions that capitalize on fear, panic and the urge to lay blame, and add to the burden on law enforcement agencies trying to protect vulnerable citizens.
Everyday life has essentially stopped in a bid to slow the virus, and some crimes have been declining. But reports of virus-related fraud are on the rise, along with concerns about hate crimes.
Data collected by the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association from about half the municipal police departments in the state shows commercial burglaries up 49% and larcenies up 19%.
Many more cars are now parked all day in people’s driveways and apartment lots, and police throughout the state say thieves are taking advantage of unlocked car doors. In East Hartford, thefts from motor vehicles increased 75% in March compared with March 2019.
A Putnam man was locked up after Connecticut State Police say he coughed in a trooper’s face in an attempt to infect him with COVID-19.
In his mug shot, 52-year-old James Keith has a surgical mask half-dangling off his face. It was put there by EMTs after police say Keith “aggressively coughed” in the face of a member of Troop D, then allegedly told the trooper “now you’re infected” with coronavirus.
In another incident, UConn police arrested Dr. Cory Edgar for allegedly intentionally coughing on two other medical workers at the Health Center. Witnesses told police that Edgar, who is a team doctor for the UConn Huskies and the Coast Guard Academy, “was purposefully disregarding space and safety concerns,” involving the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Edgar was issued a misdemeanor summons for breach of peace. He told UConn officials he does not have COVID-19. The Health System is still investigating.
State Police say weaponizing coronavirus during a time of extreme anxiety and uncertainty will not be tolerated.
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