In cities across the world, crime is falling sharply due to the coronavirus pandemic. Much of the drop has to do with the fact that criminals simply have less opportunity to ply their trade, while some of it can be attributed to changing patterns of policing, The Guardian reports.
Much of the worldwide drop in crime is a matter of the simple logistics of countrywide lockdowns in places across the globe.
For example, in Chicago, drug users are feeling the financial pinch of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning there’s less money for them to pay to dealers.
“The feedback I’m getting is that [dealers] aren’t able to move, to sell anything anywhere,” said Joseph Lopez, a Chicago attorney who represents reputed drug dealers.
In New York, major crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, burglary, assault, grand larceny, and car theft decreased by 12 percent. In Los Angeles, such crimes are down by 30 percent.
“There’s a lot fewer opportunities for criminals to take advantage of,” said criminal justice expert Joe Giacalone.
Even in some of the worst crime-ridden cities in Central America, where murder is a part of life for millions of residents, crime has fallen to levels not seen in decades. For example, in El Salvador, which a few years ago saw hundreds of murders per day, is now only recording an average of two per day.
“I think they [gang members] are afraid of catching the virus, and they aren’t going out,” said a Salvadoran.
Elsewhere in South America, gangs have called truces during the pandemic.
In some cases, however, the purported drop in crime may have less to do with a drop in criminal activity, and more to do with a drop in enforcement.
In many American cities, police are confined to their patrol cars rather than allowed to walk their beats, possibly limiting how many arrests they can make. Similarly, many police are more concerned about enforcing social distancing than they are about less-severe crimes.
“While departments are unlikely to announce they’ve backed off policing certain crimes, that’s going to be the case. In many respects, over the next weeks they’re really in survival mode,” said criminologist Philip Stinson.
One subset of crimes that is almost certainly increasing during the pandemic is domestic violence. Children aren’t in school, for example, which means that they lack access to adults who would otherwise report them to authorities if they (the adults) suspected the kids were being abused. Similarly, women in abusive relationships are effectively locked up at home with their abusers.