Who knows when Covid-19 and its disruption of everyday life will end? Just as it looked like we were getting a handle on it, the Delta variant emerged, and at this time (August of 2021) it is still unclear when and how we can finally put it behind us.
One thing we do know is that Covid changed how we do a lot of things: how we travel, how we shop, how we interact in public with other people, even how our kids go to school. Some of those things will no doubt revert back to the good old days, while others may create long-term or even permanent changes in behavior.
Right now across the US we are even seeing changes in how crime patterns develop. We can look at some of these and get a pretty good idea as to why some crimes are going up and some are going down.
The good news is that some crime types are indeed going down – like residential burglary, which makes sense. With more people staying at home during the pandemic, there were fewer unoccupied houses, making for fewer targets.
There are other crime drops with obvious ties to Covid restrictions and mobility. Many non-essential workers stayed home or were able to work remotely. Nightlife slowed down and in some cities shut down altogether. As a result, simple assaults and robberies have decreased, likely due to fewer people going out and therefore providing fewer targets.
Other crime types, however, did increase. Vehicle thefts and break-ins rose in most major American cities. In Philadelphia, they increased by over 200% in the spring of 2020. Although they have trended lower since that, they remain high. Baltimore was the only major city that reported a decrease in vehicle theft over the last year and a half.
Commercial burglaries also rose. Since more people were at home instead of out working and shopping, there were fewer people occupying commercial buildings, making them easier targets. Criminals for the most part are rational actors, so when they see the risk vs reward ratio tipping in their favor they are more likely to act.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the increase in some types of violent crime. Aggravated assaults, shootings, and homicides showed sharp increases. Although some of these were driven by an increase in domestic violence, there was also an increase in random or gang-related violence. It could be that the abrupt changes in patterns of everyday life caused increased personal strains, or that these changes emboldened some criminals, in particular gang members, to change their rules of engagement or challenge the borders of their perceived territories.
The common thread in all of these changes is that Covid has caused major disruptions to everyday life. Some of these disruptions are reflected in changes in crime rates, with some increasing as others decreased. What this means to law enforcement agencies is that the old patterns have been disrupted and new ones are developing. Old crime hotspots may have moved or disappeared for now, while new trends and hotspots are building. The only way to stay on top of this is by paying constant attention to your data.
Geolitica can help you stay ahead of these changing crime trends. Our algorithm finds patterns in both historical and new crime data, so you can get ahead of new patterns as they develop. Commercial burglaries going up? We’ll send you to the locations at highest risk for any beat and shift. Residential burglaries going down? We’ll give you the data to quickly recognize that and change your missions accordingly. Along the way, you can set your own hotspots, and for every targeted area, our AVL analysis tools help you ensure that your officers are getting to their designated locations as directed. The benefits of hotspot policing haven’t changed – just the locations where your officers will have the most impact.