The overall crime rate in the first quarter of this year has increased by 48.4 per cent compared to the same period last year.

At a Monday press conference, Secretary for Security Chris Tang attributed the rise to a continuous increase in fraud-related crime, as well as social activities returning to normal following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chris Tang
Secretary for Security Chris Tang. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

According to Tang, there were 20,584 crime cases recorded in the first quarter of this year, with violent crime rising by 22.2 percent. The detection rate remained similar to last year, at 28.3 per cent.

Tang said the crime rate increase was due to two factors. Firstly, fraud cases rose by approximately 65 per cent compared to the same period in 2022 – from 3,500 to 8,886 cases. This accounted for over 40 per cent of total crime reports.

Secondly, Tang pointed to the post-Covid resumption of daily life: “Citizens have returned to normal work and daily travel. There were more interactions among people, and the time they stayed in public areas was longer, causing these crimes to return to the situation before the pandemic in the first quarter of the year,” Tang said.

Tang added that a more scientific way to understand the situation was to compare it to 2019. He said that the number of crimes in the first quarter, if fraud was excluded, was similar to statistics for the same period of the year before the Covid pandemic.

Cyber fraud surges

Regarding the hike in fraud cases, more than 70 per cent of cases were online-related. Of those, almost 30 per cent were internet shopping-related cases, which increased by 36 per cent, whilst online recruitment and investment fraud rose by 44 per cent. Phone scams also rose by 76 per cent.

Hong Kong Police
The Hong Kong Police Force emblem outside the police headquarters in Wan Chai. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Tang said that the police will strengthen law enforcement and promotions, and they plan to set up a joint platform with major banks to provide instant assistance and help with recognising suspicious accounts.

Last year, there was a 10.6 per cent increase in the overall crime rate compared to 2021.

Asked by a reporter in February if the police were too focused on national security concerns and neglecting other issues, Commissioner of Police Raymond Siu said that “whether we have paid too much efforts on [national security], I wouldn’t agree that we have.”

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Mandy Cheng is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. Previously, she worked at Ming Pao, focusing on investigative and feature reporting. She also contributed to Cable TV and others.