Urban crime ranging from vehicle theft and burglary to burglary and assault dropped substantially during the Covid shutdowns as stay-at-home orders around the world cleared the streets and ensured that more houses were occupied during the day.
An analysis of crime reports from 27 cities in Europe, Asia and the Americas found that overall urban crime dropped by more than a third while locked up and then rose steadily again when restrictions were lifted.
Thefts fell an average of 46% and vehicle theft and daily assaults decreased by 39% and 35%, respectively. Robberies fell by 28% overall, while petty crime, such as theft and larceny, fell by approximately 47% in the countries studied.
Manuel Eisner, a professor of criminology at the University of Cambridge, said the declines were drastic but short-lived, with the lowest crime rates reported two to five weeks after the closures took effect. “After that, the numbers start to go up again,” he said.
In London, robberies fell by 60%, robberies by 46% and robberies by 29%. Reports of stolen vehicles fell 26% during last spring’s shutdown, and robberies in the capital fell 10%, investigators found.
Working with Dr. Amy Nivette at Utrecht University and others, Eisner found that tighter closures reduced crime, although cities like Stockholm and Malmö in Sweden, which only had voluntary recommendations, also saw drops in daily robberies.
The confinement in Spain, one of the strictest in Europe, transformed urban crime in Barcelona, with 84% robberies and 80% robberies. Police-recorded robberies in the city dropped from an average of 385 per day to 38 under lockdown.
The analysis, published in Nature Human Behavior, shows how sudden and substantial restrictions on people’s mobility dramatically changed the landscape of urban crime, and how quickly levels rose again when restrictions eased and normal opportunities for criminal activity returned.
According to the study, lockdowns had a much smaller impact on homicides, which fell 14% on average. This may be because many homicides take place in the home, but how organized crime gangs responded to the lockdowns is also important, Eisner said.
In a January article titled Drug lords don’t stay homeResearchers in Mexico found that conventional crime declined during the pandemic, while organized crime, including homicide, robbery and kidnapping, did not.
In other countries the situation is different. Homicides in Lima in Peru, Cali in Colombia and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, all cities where a large proportion of killings are due to gang violence, fell 76%, 29% and 24% respectively during the shutdown. In some cases, the gangs may have helped enforce the closures or, viewed differently, imposed their own restrictions on the territories they controlled.
Professor Tom Kirchmaier, head of the London School of Economics Police and Criminal Investigation Group, who was not involved in the work, said it confirmed the suspicion that there was a strong link between the severity of the lockdowns and overall levels of crime. . “If you can’t get out, then it is much more difficult to commit crimes,” he said.
“Having said that, my work with colleagues found that domestic abuse between current partners and family members greatly increased, cast bicycle thefts they were quite frequent during the shutdown, as people needed alternative forms of transportation.
“The big problem is what will happen after the blockade ends, and the true costs of the blockade in terms of economic and social costs in certain areas of the country will become apparent. My intuition is that a little shock awaits us, particularly in the most deprived areas, with persistently higher levels of property and violent crime. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism