Crime Stats During a Pandemic: What is Up and What is Down
2020 has been a unique year for everyone. The criminal justice system and the legal field are not an exception. As criminal defense attorneys, at Antol & Sherman, we have witnessed changes in the types of crimes that were committed during the pandemic lockdowns and also how that shifted once states started to re-open. Crime has not stopped during Coronavirus. People are still being arrested and some court proceedings are happening while others are being postponed causing significant delays impacting constitutional rights.
At Antol & Sherman, we have been monitoring statistics both nationally across the country and locally in Flagstaff, Arizona regarding the types of crimes that are up and also which types of crimes are down. We created this list for all our citizens so they can be informed on what is happening both nationally and locally. These crime stats during a pandemic, listing what types of crime are up and which types of crime are down, are based on our research but also what we have experienced personally as criminal defense attorneys in Northern Arizona.
Coronavirus Major Crime Trends Across the Country During Lockdowns
When Covid-19 first hit the United States, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed non-essential businesses, and put other restrictions in place. Specifically, the months of March through April 2020 were highly restrictive. That is when federal guidelines designed to slow the spread of Coronavirus were issued and followed by additional state-level restrictions. These restrictions impacted not only what types of crimes were being reported but how many. To have crime there needs to be a perpetrator, a victim, and an opportunity. The absence of people out and about in public resulted in a decrease in many major crimes nationwide and thus a decrease in police activity. Nationwide, when comparing March through April 2020 to 2019, here is what was observed:
- Reported violent crime was down
- Reported robberies were down
- Reported residential burglaries were drastically down (less day time house burglaries as everyone is home all day)
- Reported commercial burglaries were up (businesses were closed and left empty for weeks)
- Gun violence has remained steady at similar pre-pandemic levels
- Homicides remained steady at similar pre-pandemic levels
Across the country, the pandemic did impact the types of crimes committed, calls for police assistance, and arrests made. There is also an argument to be made that even though 911 calls are down, that may be partially attributed to people not wanting to involve the police out of fear of contracting coronavirus due to another human interaction.
“Covid-19 Crimes” – New Crime Trends During Coronavirus and Coming out of Lockdowns Nationwide
While many major crimes nationwide have seen reductions, there are some crimes that are on the rise due to Coronavirus specifically due to changes in the way most citizens are living under state and federal stay-at-home orders. The following crimes are up, which we are calling Covid-19 crimes, as the increases are unique to the Coronavirus time period:
- Package theft (so many people have shifted to ordering online and also the theft of stimulus checks)
- Assaults on medical workers both in hospitals and first responders
- Price gouging and other financial scams
- Hate crimes (especially against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders)
- Commercial burglaries (due to vacant businesses)
- Civil disobedience related crimes (due to the city and state restrictions)
- Domestic violence and child abuse (families are stuck at home together)
- Car thefts (people are not driving their cars and may not notice right away especially if they park on the street)
There are also crimes that fell during lockdowns but states are starting to see rise again as restrictive measures are lifted and the country re-opens:
- Assaults generally
- Public Intoxication and other nuisance related crimes (as bars re-open)
- Drinking and driving-related offenses
Domestic Violence & Child Abuse: A global concern and numbers will always fail to tell the entire story
With the imposition of stay-at-home orders and increased strains on families due to health and financial worries, it is sadly not a surprise that domestic violence and child abuse rates are skyrocketing both locally, nationally, and globally. Domestic violence and child abuse are historically the most underreported crimes generally and there is no doubt that continues to be the case during Coronavirus. With everyone trapped at home, victims are at an even higher risk of family violence. In February, China’s reported domestic violence rates tripled in that month alone.
Before the pandemic, it was estimated that one in three women will be the victim of domestic violence during their lifetime. Many domestic violence hotlines and shelters are experiencing an increase in calls for help the past few months but for many, services are limited due to social distancing and shutdowns. Hospitals are overcrowded with Coronavirus patients or victims are fearful of going to an emergency room for treatment and being exposed to Coronavirus. Many therapists are not taking new patients or have switched to Telehealth, and many shelters are shut down temporarily.
Child abuse is also without question on the rise. Historically, 1 in 7 children experiences some type of abuse every year, whether that is physical, sexual, emotional, or neglect. Furthermore, 1 out of 3 girls and 1 out of 5 boys are sexually abused before they reach age 18. With schools shut down and shifting to online learning, parents have been thrust into the additional role of educators. With no break from their children, tempers flare and violence happens. But not all child abuse is inflicted by adult family members. Upwards of 25% of child abuse cases are perpetrated by another older child within the home. With everyone constantly around each other, we can anticipate a surge in family violence cases in the criminal justice system in the near future.
Teachers have always been a major source of child abuse reporting. They see bruises and other marks on children in their classrooms and report it to authorities who then conduct an investigation. Without that check, child abuse is still occurring but is not being reported as often because it is not being caught. Combine the general nationwide child abuse statistics with the stress of Coronavirus, home learning, and stay-at-home-orders, and we know we have yet to see the true impact and fall out from this unprecedented time period.
Crime Trends in Flagstaff Locally during Stay-At-Home Orders and during Re-Opening
Flagstaff is generally a very safe place to live and we are grateful for that! But no community is immune from crime. During the months of March and April, Flagstaff similarly experienced a decrease in some types of crimes while experiencing an increase in “Covid-19 crimes.” The Flagstaff Police Department reported the following crime statistic changes:
- Increase in public intoxication crimes
- Increase in burglary and trespassing crimes
- The decrease in the number of Drinking and Driving related offenses
- Domestic Violence calls have remained steady
- Petty crimes have increased (shoplifting, disorderly conduct, trespassing, etc. because the court’s policy of releasing non-violent offenders has resulted in repeat offenders continuing to commit crimes as they are not serving jail time)
- Assaults on officers or resisting arrest have increased (many due to fear of not wanting to go to jail and be exposed to Covid-19)
The Coconino County Prosecutor’s Office announced in April that they were looking to increase fines and jail sentences for cases where people being arrested took actions to intentionally expose first responders to Covid-19, such as by coughing or spitting.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, contact us at Antol & Sherman, PC. Our team of trial attorneys has more than 60 years of combined legal experience and a strong track record of providing successful legal representation in a wide variety of criminal, family, and divorce, drug and DUI, and accident law cases in Flagstaff, Arizona as well as the surrounding northern Arizona cities including Camp Verde, Sedona, Williams, Holbrook, Winslow, Cottonwood, Mayer, Seligman, Kingman, Page, St. Johns.
Also, if you suspect a family has been abusing a child in your family, please contact us about child custody and other emergency family law proceedings. We have experience litigating a wide variety of child custody and family law related cases for years throughout Northern Arizona.