COVID-19 and Crime: How Coronavirus Is Changing Crime

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COVID-19 has already changed the world. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to end anytime soon. In Monroe County alone, there are already 31 confirmed deaths, 37 patients in the ICU, and 570 confirmed coronavirus cases.

Across Rochester and the entire U.S., millions of people have self-isolated themselves inside their homes. Aside from a few trips to the grocery store and for those with jobs in essential fields, no one is leaving their homes. This, of course, leads to all sorts of economic problems. However, there is a silver lining: crime is drastically decreasing.

According to USA Today, crime rates have plunged in cities and counties across the U.S. since mid-March. Police departments logged dramatically fewer calls for service, incidents of crime and arrests decreased, and massive drops in traffic stops — 92% in some jurisdictions — have lead to a much quieter few weeks as far as crime is concerned.

Additionally, 19 out of 20 police agencies examined by USA Today recorded a decrease in criminal incidents since March 15.

It’s not that we’re not enforcing (the law),” Gainesville Police chief inspector Jorge Campos said. “It’s that we’re finding alternative ways of dealing with the issue rather than make physical arrests.”

Let’s take a look at a few specific crimes and see how COVID-19 is impacting them:

Drinking and driving

A DUI conviction will likely be raised to a felony if it is the driver’s fourth DUI offense or the driver has had a prior felony DUI offense within 10 years of the new charge. Drinking and driving is a serious issue all over the country. Luckily, since bars and restaurants are closed, and people are remaining in their homes much more often, drinking and driving has significantly decreased over the last few weeks.

Traffic offenses

Since there are fewer vehicles out on the roads, traffic offenses have declined, as well. In about 21% of all motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. weather is a factor — but it’s much easier to drive and avoid collisions and traffic offenses when there aren’t as many cars on the road. Since people aren’t driving to work or out to eat or to even visit family members, no one really has to speed or drive recklessly — and the traffic reports are mirroring that fact.

Prostiution

Between 70,000 and 80,000 people are arrested for prostitution every year in the United States. Again, since people are only leaving their homes for grocery store trips or to go to and from work (if they work in an essential field), no one is out on the street.

Violent crimes

According to The Hill, homicide in California’s biggest city fell by almost 43% over the last few weeks. And violent crimes in cities like Rochester, Atlanta, and Chicago all have dropped last months compared to statistics from March 2019.

“We can’t specifically say that the crime rate is affected by coronavirus,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “But obviously what we know going back many, many years and looking at data is that when large congregations of people are outside in neighborhoods where gun violence is prevalent, that increases the risk.”

Unfortunately, since people are confined to their homes, cases of domestic violence have spiked. Montgomery County police saw a 21% increase in domestic violence calls over the last two weeks, an average of 39 a day.

“It’s something we unfortunately expected knowing that people are going to be quarantined in their homes,” said Montogomery County Police Department Chief Marcus Jones.

While you and your family are in quarantine, it’s important to be aware of what you can do to protect yourself and help prevent the spread of this virus:

  • Stay at home as much as possible and self-isolate from others inside your household if you feel sick.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue or your elbow whenever you sneeze or cough.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, mouth, nose, or any other part of your face if your hands are not clean.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone — especially those who feel unwell. Keep at least 6 feet away from people while out in public.
  • Wash your hands regulalry for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to use soap and hot water. An alcohol-based hand rub will suffice, as well.

Despite the fact that the majority of crime is down in Rochester and all across the country, it can still happen. Luckily, police departments are still active and can assist you and your family whenever necessary. Good luck and do your best to stay safe and healthy!