British people have taken to their new roles as government informants with surprising enthusiasm, inundating police forces with reports of neighbours allegedly breaking the terms of the state-imposed coronavirus lockdown.
British newspaper of record The Times reports perceived crimes such as public loitering and having house parties have been reported to police in recent weeks.
Adopting the ruthlessly pro-conformity mien more frequently associated in the past with the denizens of autocratic and oppressive regimes, over 200,000 alleged infractions of the government’s national house arrest have been reported to police.
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Police forces have actively solicited these reports in many cases, with several creating online portals where members of the public can easily file reports on their fellow citizens. One police force that took the step to provide an official form for informants said of the push: “we want to make it as easy as possible for members of the public to tell us… I can assure the public that all reports will be considered by our staff coordinating the operational policing response to Covid-19″.
Those caught breaking the government-imposed lockdown can be fined £60 by a police officer, but this amount falls to £30 if the fine is paid promptly. The fine doubles for every repeat offence to a maximum of £960.
While it is not clear how many of the public reports made are actually acted upon by police, there are nevertheless some emerging trends in the data of those who actually receive lockdown fines. The greatest number of fines was recorded over the Easter weekend, a traditional time for worship, celebration, and visiting family in Christian countries, and other spikes coincide with the weather being warmer.
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The phenomenon led one senior police officer cited in The Times‘ report to note the broader population would likely become “restless” as summer established itself.
Although a large proportion — 48 per cent — of those actually given fines already have a criminal record, implying an established willingness to flaunt the law despite the consequences, the majority do not have previous convictions and are therefore, presumably, members of Britain’s wider society.
The newspaper further reports that, in terms of the ethnic breakdown of those fined, in absolute terms white people have received more lockdown fines than all other ethnic groups put together, but Britain’s ethnic minorities have actually received more per head of population, with Asian residents getting 19.9 fines per capita and black people 18.9, compared to 10.9 for white Britons.
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