Is the Coronavirus Leading to an Increase in Crime?



Is the Coronavirus Leading to an Increase in Crime?

You'd be surprised.

When we first started analyzing crime trends across the country while stay-at-home orders proliferated, it looked like crime was opting to self-quarantine. Initial numbers were encouraging, it appeared that we had at least one less thing to worry about. 

From New York City, the American epicenter of the crisis, to my hometown of Salt Lake City, most major crimes saw a dip. That includes violent crimes (like murder, assault, rape, and robbery) and property crimes like burglary and larceny-theft (which includes things like bicycle theft and pickpocketing). 

With fewer people out and about, there were fewer opportunities for criminals to do their dastardly deeds, but then they got creative. 

While the aforementioned crimes have continued to stay lower in most places, acts like vehicle theft and domestic violence have been on the rise. In the past week, I found one report after another citing huge jumps in burglary of commercial properties and businesses left vacant as people are ordered to stay at home. 

Without literal pockets to pick, criminals set out to scam people through fake charities, phony cures and vaccines, and by impersonating government and other official organizations.

And as fears and stress about the novel coronavirus increases, so do hate crimes targeting Asian Americans and anyone else people decide may have some kind of responsibility for spreading the virus.

With nearly 95% of Americans (42 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and D.C.) under some kind of stay-at-home order, life as we knew it has changed. And that includes criminal activity.  Take a look at this week’s roundup of crime trends happening across the nation.





New York City, New York

New York City has been reporting a steady decrease in crime since the onset of the pandemic, but year over year crime rates aren’t trending down as the first quarter of the year ends.

Highlights from recent reports about crime in New York City are included below.

  • Despite reported drops in most major crimes throughout the month of March, the city ended the first quarter of 2020 with a 12% increase in its crime rate compared to last year.

  • Murders saw a decrease year over year, dropping from 75% in the first three months of 2019 to 67% this year.

  • Crime rates that were steadily on the rise in the Big Apple took a sharp turn on March 11 when the pandemic hit with full force.

  • March ended with a 4.2% decrease in crime compared to last year.






Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Violent crime may persist in the City of Brotherly Love, but both violent and property crime are down statewide.

Specific statistics from recent articles about crime in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania shed more light below.

  • The week ending April 5, total criminal offenses dropped by 89% statewide compared to the same week in 2019. Property crimes fell 91%, and DUIs fell 71% as bars are closed and folks are indulging at home.

  • A Philadelphia police lieutenant died on Sunday, April 5 from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. This is the first city employee to succumb to the virus.

  • On Sunday, March 29, the city saw three shooting incidents that left two dead and one critically injured.

  • On March 25, police reported a 6% dip in violent crime and 14% drop in property crime, month over month—despite a 22% jump in the number of shootings.

  • During the city’s first week of school closures, the Philadelphia Police Department saw nine shootings, three homicides, three stabbings, and one police-involved shooting.

  • The city is joining many others across the country that are stopping arrests for drug offenses and other non-violent crimes like theft and vandalism. The tactic aims to reduce coronavirus spread in crowded jails.






Memphis, Tennessee 

Memphis has seen a decline in violent crime since the area saw its first positive tests for the coronavirus. Fox 13 in Memphis shared some encouraging numbers that are highlighted below.

  • In the first two weeks of March, the city reported 243 violent crimes.

  • Between January 28 and February 28, Memphis had 611 violent crimes.

  • If that trend continues, the city’s violent crime rate in March could be nearly half what it was in February.






Chicago, Illinois

It seems like business-as-usual for violent crime in Chicago, despite the governor’s stay-at-home order that took effect on March 21.  Amidst some reports of lower crime rates, shootings continue to plague the city. Find out more below.

  • The greater Chicago area ended March with nearly 500 shooting victims (498); 165 shooting victims were recorded in the city of Chicago.

  • The city saw 20 more shooting victims over the weekend of April 6, with two fatalities.

  • Police are cracking down on people defying the city’s “shelter-in-place” directive that went into effect on March 20. Since the announcement, officers have issued 11 citations, made 1,600 orders to disperse, and arrested three people.

  • Police reported that homicides fell by 29% and shootings dropped by 19% the week of March 21.





Los Angeles, California

The City of Angels saw a stark drop in crime as the city hunkered down to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Stringent restrictions for businesses and residents went into effect on March 19. See how the stay-at-home order has impacted recent crime statistics in Los Angeles below.

  • Violent crime across the City of Angels dropped by 23% in March, compared to 2019.

  • Los Angeles is one of the only cities in the country to report a drop in family violence. March saw an 11% drop from the same time period last year.

  • Specific crimes decreased year over year between March 1 and March 25: robberies dipped by 22%, incidents of aggravated assault dropped by 11%, and there were 7% fewer burglaries.

  • Murders went down by 20% year over year, with 12 this March and 15 last year.

  • Some crimes did see an increase—rape rose 2% and vehicle thefts jumped 10%.

  • Los Angeles Police Department arrests went down 14% in the first half of March compared to last year.

  • 15 LAPD officers have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

  • The LAPD is asking citizens to report non-emergency crimes on an online portal instead of calling dispatch or 911.





Denver, Colorado

According to Denver police, reported crimes have decreased by 29 percent in the past three weeks, which is more or less the amount of time the city has been on near-lock down over the coronavirus.

  • An average of 170 crimes were reported per day in the first week of March. That dropped to 164 the week of March 8 to March 14, and 121 from March 15 to March 21.

  • This Monday — the day Mayor Michael Hancock announced a stay at home order that took effect today — had the second-lowest number of reported crimes for the entire month (89) after Friday, March 20 (78).

  • One-hundred crimes were reported on Sunday, significantly lower than previous Sundays, including 162 on March 15, 153 on March 8 and 154 on March 1.

  • There were 5,068 reported crimes in March 2019 and 5,323 in March 2018, according to department data. With a week in the month, 3,378 crimes have been reported in Denver.


Chief Paul Pazen said crime was down “significantly” in some areas, including property crime like larceny. He said crime might have decreased because more people are staying home.

Only one type of crime, aggravated assaults involving firearms, has increased in the past few weeks.

The department has changed how it records certain crimes, opting to take low-level property crime reports over the phone and internet to limit contact with people. Officers are still sent to emergency or high-priority incidents and follow up on some of the lower-level calls.






Should I Be More Worried about Crime during the Pandemic?

In such an unsettled time, it’s hard not to be worried about everything, but no of course not!

Even though it seems like there may be upticks in some crimes or certain cities, the overall trend seems to indicate a decrease in crime in general. As more time passes, we’ll be far better equipped to gauge the pandemic’s impact on the nation’s criminal justice system.

For now, I think it’s important to focus on the things we can control (like making sure my wine made it safely under the dining room table with me) and avoid seeking out new things to stress over. It's always better to feel more safe than not. If safety is your main concern, it's always a good idea to bulk up your security system. Shop some of our IP Camera Kits.




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