More than 866,000 criminal offences in Belgium in 2021

More than 866,000 criminal offences in Belgium in 2021
Credit: Belga / Jasper Jacobs

The pandemic continued to have an impact on crime figures in 2021, which saw the number of criminal offences recorded by the Federal Police decrease since last year but has resulted in cybercrime remaining a prominent issue.

On Thursday, the Federal Police published its crime statistics for the year 2021, showing that police services registered 866,588 criminal facts last year, a decrease of 12.4% (or 122,600 crimes) compared to 2020, when the number of "traditional" forms of crime such as thefts decreased, but the registrations of violations of the measures, a new crime category, rose.

"This decrease can largely be explained by the enforcement of the Covid-19 measures. While in 2020 there were still 192,307 breaches of the measures to combat Covid-19, in 2021 there were 68,104," the police said in a statement.

Cybercrime, football law and sexual violence

In 2020, cybercrime skyrocketed in Belgium, and this increase continued throughout last year when 47,560 cybercrime offences — from blocking someone's computer with malware and spreading viruses to hacking and phishing — were recorded. Especially the number of phishing offences increased, as 8,329 offences were registered in 2021, an increase of 10.7%

The number of infringements of the Football Law, which contains rules for organisers and spectators and applies to all international and national football matches, aimed at keeping people safe, rose significantly last year. While this figure dropped to 154 in 2020 as a result of the empty stadiums due to the pandemic, the police registered 501 offences in 2021, more than in 2019.

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Vincent Van Quickenborne, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice welcomed the fact that the crime figures show that Belgium is recovering from the aftermath of the pandemic, but stressed that other forms are becoming more prevalent, and need to be focussed on.

"Now it is time to tackle another pandemic: that of sexual violence. From day one of this legislature, we have made the fight against sexual violence a priority." In June, a new penal code was enforced to crack down on crimes from spiking to rape and to clarify the law regarding consent.

Although these figures offer an insight into the evolution of crime in Belgium over the years, the Federal Police stressed that they should be taken with a pinch of salt, as a rise in a certain type of crime mainly indicates an increase in the willingness of the population to report it or improvements in investigation techniques.

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