Crime and the Coronavirus: What You Need to Know

Are ongoing pandemic conditions increasing crime in America?

It depends on who you ask. From a research standpoint, it’s difficult to make a sweeping assumption—even after six months of living in a COVID-19 world.

But there are consistent signs across the country that certain crimes have seen jumps during the global pandemic. The biggest increases have been in violent crimes, particularly murder, aggravated assault, and shooting incidents.

See year-to-date statistics for the major metros we’ve been watching throughout the pandemic.



Violent crime stats and trends during the pandemic

  • Preliminary FBI data for the first six months of 2020 shows murder and non-negligent homicide as up nearly 15% compared to the same time period last year.
  • report by the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) paints an even more dire picture—showing a 53% jump in homicides in 27 major US cities this summer, compared to the last.
  • FBI data also shows a 4.6% jump in aggravated assaults between January and June 2020, versus the same period in 2019.
  • Aggravated assault rose 14% summer over summer, according to the CCJ analysis.
  • Gun violence has been relentless for much of 2020, particularly in major cities like ChicagoNew York City, and Philadelphia.
  • As of September 28, the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) has recorded 13,641 homicides, murders, and unintentional gun-related deaths for 2020. That’s almost 90% of the total recorded for all of 2019.

It’s not all bad news, though. There are plenty of other crimes that have dropped dramatically amid stay at home orders, physical distancing, and other pandemic conditions.

  • Counts of rape have dropped, according to FBI data—falling almost 18% year over year.
  • Robberies have also been on the decline, dropping 7% for the first half of 2020.
  • Overall, property crimes have been on a downward trajectory this year.

Property crime stats and trends during the pandemic:

  • According to a preliminary FBI report,  property crime saw an 8% decrease nationwide between January and June 2020, compared to the same timeframe last year.
  • The FBI shows burglaries down across the board by nearly 8% year over year, although cities like Seattle and San Francisco have seen drastic increases.
  • Larceny thefts also dropped by nearly 10% in the first half of 2020, according to FBI data.
  • Car thefts and break-ins have been on the rise during the pandemic. The FBI shows a 6% climb in vehicle thefts between January and June 2020, compared to the same time in 2019.
  • Cities like Los AngelesDenver, and Scarsdale, New York have broken records for the number of cars stolen so far in 2020.
  • The FBI also reports a drastic jump of 19% in arson offenses nationwide. The majority (52%) of that increase came from cities with more than one million residents.

New York City, New York

New York City skyline at sunset

New York City initially saw a steady decrease in crime at the onset of the pandemic—but year-to-date numbers for murder, shooting incidents, and burglary have spiked.

While stay-at-home orders initially dampened crime rates in the city, it seems that looser restrictions may have helped both criminals and business owners get back to work.

Highlights from the most recent NYPD crime statistics report are included below.

  • As of October 18, overall crime complaints are down 1.13% year over year.
  • But not all crimes are on the decline. Burglaries and murder have both seen big spikes in 2020.
  • Burglaries are up 42%, representing 3,601 more incidents reported year to date in 2020 compared to 2019.
  • The city has also seen a 32% jump in murders, equaling 89 more victims this year than last. As of the end of April, the murder rate had only increased by 4% year over year.
  • The number of shooting victims has increased by nearly 99%, with 753 more victims year to date (as of October 18) than during the same period last year.
  • Shooting incidents have also climbed at a rate of 92% year over year—NYPD reports 593 more incidents so far in 2020, compared to 2019.
  • The number of rapes reported to NYPD has seen a significant decline. As of October 18, there were 344 fewer rapes reported year to date, versus the same time period last year. That’s a 23% drop year over year.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA

Not even a global pandemic can stop the rate of violence and murder in the City of Brotherly Love. Despite social distancing and stay-at-home orders, Philadelphia is seeing record numbers of homicides.

But some crimes have dipped during the novel coronavirus crisis—residential burglaries and personal thefts (like mugging) have seen steep drops year over year.

Specific statistics from Philadelphia Police Department reports shed more light below.

  • As of October 18, all Part One offenses were down 2.7% year over year, compared to the same time frame in 2019.
  • Violent crime dipped 1.6% year over year, and property crime dropped 3%.
  • Homicides increased by 34%, or 95 more incidents, than in 2019.
  • Shootings have continued to peak, with shooting incidents up 58% and shooting victims up 47% year over year. That’s more than 1,000 additional shooting incidents and over 550 more victims than Philadelphia saw as of October 18 in 2019.
  • Aggravated assaults involving a gun jumped by 40% year over year, accounting for 844 more gun-related assaults in 2020 than last year.
  • In contrast, all other aggravated assaults went down by 1.6%. Likewise, all classifications of robbery and rape have seen a decrease this year, averaging about 20% across the board.
  • When it comes to burglary, residential break-ins have declined by nearly 25%—that’s 945 fewer incidents year to date than last year.
  • But commercial burglaries have skyrocketed by 134%, adding up to more than 1,300 incidents this year than last. Interestingly, retail theft has gone down nearly 10%.
  • Theft from a person has dropped over 43% year to date, compared to 2019.
  • Both auto theft and vehicle tag theft have risen by 28% and 35%, respectively.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago skyline

Amidst year-to-date reports of predominantly lower crime rates, shootings and homicides continue to plague Chicago during the pandemic.

Find out more from the most recent Chicago Police Department crime report below.

  • As of October 25, criminal complaints are down 7% overall compared to the same time period in 2019.
  • The crimes with the biggest drops are criminal sexual assault (down 23%) and theft (down 27%).
  • Murder leads the way when it comes to crimes on the rise in Chicago. So far this year, there’ve been 51% more murders than in 2019. That’s 219 more incidents year over year. Last year murders rose 34% over 2018’s numbers.
  • Shooting incidents have also seen a spike of 52% this year—accounting for more than 900 additional incidents in 2020 than in 2019.
  • Auto theft has also been climbing, with 8% more stolen cars reported as of October 25 than during the same time frame last year.

Los Angeles, California

Safest Metro Cities in America

The City of Angels saw a stark drop in crime as the city hunkered down to battle the COVID-19 pandemic in March. Even though all crime has been trending downward, gun violence still outpaces other violent incidents.

See how crime is evolving in Los Angeles with data from the latest LAPD crime reports.

  • As of October 17, violent crime is down by just over 3% year over year, with rape showing the biggest decline (23%).
  • In June, LA’s year-to-date violent crime numbers indicated an 11% drop year over year, but that gap has closed rapidly as we head into fall.
  • Despite an overall downward trend for violent crime, both homicides and assaults have been on the rise. Homicides are up nearly 25% year over year, and aggravated assault has increased by more than 5%.
  • Shootings are still on the rise in the City of Angels. Year-to-date, the city reports 22% more shots fired and 23% more shooting victims than in the same time period for 2019. That’s a difference of 393 more shots-fired incidents and 185 more shooting victims in 2020.
  • Property crime remains on a downward trajectory, with a 10% decline year over year for all property crimes reported to the LAPD.
  • The only outlier is car theft, which has risen over 35% this year, compared to 2019 statistics.

The remainder of this article was originally published June 2, 2020

Today’s biggest threats (that aren’t the virus)

Memorial Day weekend saw 49 shootings in Chicago, 10 in New York City, and 3 in Los Angeles.

Shootings continue to be a scourge across the nation as states open up and people finally come out of their homes. Chicago’s Memorial Day weekend was its deadliest in five years.

Property crime continues to be down in most places—especially acts against private residences. But the initial dip in violent crime has normalized across much of the country, particularly in cities already wracked by gun violence and drugs continue to see those crimes proliferate, pandemic or no. 

But some new criminal activities are rearing their heads. Here are crimes that seem to be growing as we settle into the third month of social distancing.

  • Civil disobedience in the face of state and city restrictions
  • Package theft
  • Speeding
  • Surges in the opioid epidemic
  • Assault on medical workers and law enforcement (usually through coughing, spitting, or sneezing)

Crimes that continue to be problematic during the pandemic

  • Burglary of commercial businesses left vacant
  • Domestic and family violence
  • Hate crimes (especially against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders)
  • Vehicle theft
  • Financial scams
  • Price gouging

Some ways you can help

Hate crimes

Domestic violence

If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic abuse, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline online or at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Calls are free, confidential, and offer support in more than 200 languages.

Scams to watch out for

Bell
New scam alert!

Unemployment claims are the latest government program to fall victim to coronavirus scammers. States have lost millions of dollars to the unscrupulous fraudsters preying on the millions of Americans who've been put out of work during the pandemic.

Scammers have hit Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wyoming so far.

Possibly the only thing as pervasive as the novel coronavirus is the unending stream of scams targeting us when we’re at our most vulnerable. Don’t give the scammers any victories as they prey on the fallout of a pandemic

Here’s what to look out for—and what you can do about it.

IRS stimulus check scams

People are receiving their stimulus money, but scammers have been trying to swipe your funds since the bill was approved by the White House. Don’t respond to any of the following in regard to your stimulus payment.

The bottom line is that the IRS will not contact you for any information related to your stimulus payment. Don’t give anyone your social security number, full name, birthdate, or precious time.

“Economic impact funds” will be automatically deposited into bank accounts for eligible tax filers who already filed taxes this year. If you didn’t get your refund via direct deposit, you’ll be issued a check in the mail. 

If you didn’t file your taxes, or aren’t usually required to file, you can fill out an online IRS form to get your payment. 

Charity scams

There has been a spike in emails, texts, and phone calls soliciting donations for phony charity organizations and others claiming to represent the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

  • Don’t respond to these messages.
  • Don’t click on any links.
  • Don’t provide any personal information.

Where to report scams

If you come across a scam, help put these bad actors out of business by reporting it. 

How the coronavirus is impacting crime state to state

Arizona

  • Violent crimes in Tempe increased by six incidents per 100,000 people between March 16 and April 12, compared to the same time period last year.
  • Flagstaff police haven't seen a spike in domestic violence calls like other cities across the US, but officers have seen a jump in daytime calls since the COVID-19 pandemic gave way to stay-at home orders.
  • Calls for public intoxication have been on the rise in Flagstaff and burglaries related to public intoxication incidents have climbed almost 13%.

Arkansas

  • Citizens in Little Rock held a "coronavirus parade" on April 5. Police issued tickets for loitering and reckless driving, despite no statewide stay-at-home order in Arkansas.
  • Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. admonished the revelers, emphasizing the coronavirus and COVID-19 are "not a game."

Colorado

  • Denver saw 10 more violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents year over year between March 16 and April 12. Denver also reported 10 more car thefts during that same timeframe this year compared to the numbers in 2019.
  • A Castle Rock restaurant owner is in hot water after serving a bustling Mother's Day crowd against state social distancing orders. After being ordered to shut down, the owner defiantly opened for business again the following morning—continuing to eschew COVID-19 safety practices.
  • Burglaries in Boulder have jumped 189% since the beginning of March (79 this year compared to 28 in 2019), but police don’t attribute the spike to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Overall, crime in Denver saw a drop of nearly 10% in March 2020, compared to March 2019.

Connecticut

Delaware

  • Delaware County is being proactive when it comes to residents' mental and emotional health needs. Emergency Services is keeping an eye on domestic violence and suicide calls to see if the pandemic is spurring any spike in reports. So far, the county hasn't seen an increase, but they want to be prepared if citizens need extra support.
  • “We haven’t seen a surge in those yet, but it is something we are daily monitoring and reporting out. With our partners and community groups, we’re all preparing to ramp up behavioral health, mental health services," Tim Boyce, Emergency Services Director, told The Delco Times.

Florida

  • There were 7% more arrests for major crimes in Volusia County between March 16 and April 12, compared to the same time period in 2019.
  • Miami saw 1.1 fewer homicides per 100,000 people between March 16 and April 12, versus the same period last year.
  • In Jacksonville, four people have been arrested for coronavirus-related crimes in the past few weeks. Crimes range from spitting and coughing on healthcare and law enforcement workers to jumping a fence into a testing site. The Mayor is considering implementing a curfew if similar incidents persist.
  • Jacksonville has also seen a rash of shootings and assaults despite local and state advisories to stay at home. Jacksonville came in at 101 in our 2020 ranking of the Sunshine State’s safest cities, with a violent crime rate of 6 incidents per 1,000.

Georgia

  • Atlanta had a 6% increase in arrests for major crimes between March 16 and April 12, but there was a drop of 29% for less serious crimes.
  • Georgia has been a hotbed of controversy as one of the first states to abandon social distancing protocols and in the aftermath of the fatal Ahmaud Arbery shooting.
  • A father and son were arrested for the crime, claiming concern about a string of break-ins in their neighborhood, but police reports don't support the burglary spree claim. In fact, Glynn County police recorded just one burglary during that time frame—and it was a vehicle break-in.
Thumbs Up
No hard feelings

Protesters in California staged a second illegal demonstration to say, "I forgive you" to the law enforcement officers who arrested them at an earlier unsanctioned protest against California's stay-at-home orders.

Idaho

  • Far-right activists and politicians in Idaho are defying statewide stay-at-home orders and challenging the constitutionality of such directives. From holding Easter services to calling out political opponents, the efforts aren’t gaining much traction.
  • Idaho’s governor and attorney general said they’re prepared to defend the stay-at-home order in court if it comes to that.

Indiana

  • Despite early signs of a dip in violent crime, Indianapolis is on track to exceed homicide rates this year compared to previous years.
  • As of April 6, there had been 45 criminal homicide cases, compared to 34 by that time in 2019.
  • Last year the city saw 154 criminal homicides, and 2018 set the record with 159.

Kansas

  • Kansas City police report decreases in shoplifting, vehicle theft, and automobile break-ins since the state’s stay-at-home order went into effect on March 24.
  • Unfortunately, the city has seen slight increases in aggravated assaults, murders, and domestic violence calls.
  • If you feel unsafe at home, KCPD wants you to call 816-HOTLINE to talk to a domestic violence advocate.
  • Bad actors are impersonating police in several Kansas counties. Imposters pull drivers over and ask if their travel is “essential.” So far, no one has been hurt.
  • If you think you’ve been stopped by an impersonator, contact your local police and report it to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation by calling 1-800-KS-CRIME or filling out information online.

Kentucky

  • Shootings in Louisville have continued to rise despite stay-at-home advisories. Since orders were put in place on March 16, the city has seen 46 shootings, resulting in 11 dead.
  • For the same period in 2019, Louisville saw 19 total shootings and seven deaths.

Louisiana

  • Emergency 911 operators in New Orleans are getting about 100 fewer calls per day since the city has been mostly shuttered due to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Since stay-at-home orders were put in place, murders involving guns have decreased 58% in New Orleans and non-fatal shootings dropped 19% compared to the incidence of those crimes between January 1 and March 15.
  • Other crimes that saw a dip in New Orleans since March 15 include armed robbery (down 29%), carjackings (down 54%), and car break-ins (down 34%).
  • A riot and a mass escape rocked youth prison facilities (and surrounding communities) in Louisiana in April. The system is already strained due to multiple outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.

Maine

Maryland

  • Overall property crime in Baltimore dropped by 135 incidents per 100,000 people between March 16 and April 12, versus the same timeframe in 2019.
  • Baltimore homicides rose slightly between March 16 and April 12, compared to the same time period last year, but violent crime incidents dropped overall by 10 crimes per 100,000 people.
  • Robberies in Baltimore fell by 6.8 incidents per 100,000 between March 16 and April 12, and burglaries dropped by 24 incidents, compared to last year.
  • A Carrol County man has been charged for violating social distancing orders after throwing a party in a local hotel. Gatherings of more than 10 people are currently prohibited statewide.

Massachusetts

  • Major crime arrests in Boston declined by a whopping 66% between March 16 and April 12, compared to the same time period in 2019.
  • Police report an uptick in vehicle break-ins across Boston, although home burglaries have declined since a city-wide curfew was put in place to help battle the spread of the novel coronavirus.
  • Boston city officials and a community organizations that track crime fear shootings are on the rise during the pandemic, although police reported no difference between the number of fatal shootings in March 2019 and March 2020.

Michigan

  • Grand Rapids saw a 20% jump in arrests for major crimes between March 16 and April 12, versus the same timeframe last year.
  • Overall, crime is still increasing in Detroit despite the pandemic, but the rate of increase has slowed significantly since the outbreak started to ravage the city. Detroit police report around 20% fewer major crimes in the city each week, compared to last year’s numbers.
  • As of the week ending April 19, more than 180 Detroit police department employees had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, over 1,000 have been quarantined, and several have died, including the director of homicide and a volunteer police chaplain.
  • Crime dipped initially after stay-at-home orders were issued, but Detroit criminals got back to business-as-usual when April rolled around. In the first week of April the city saw 27 non-fatal shootings and 8 homicides.

Mississippi

Missouri

  • St. Louis has seen fewer shootings since the state imposed its stay-at-home order. As of April 24, the city reported a 77% reduction in murders year over year compared to the same time period in 2019.
  • A local group dedicated to reducing crime in Kansas City is changing its tactics from door-to-door interactions to phone outreach in order to comply with the city’s stay-at-home order.
Thumbs Up
Making a difference

"Wash the Hate" is a PSA campaign spearheaded by Asian celebrities who want to quash the recent spike of hate crimes aimed at Asian Americans in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign aims to unite all communities against our "common enemy."

Montana

Nebraska

  • The sheriff’s office in Lincoln reports a jump in gun sales as the pandemic continues. Between February and March, handgun sales grew by 121% (from 342 purchases to 758). In April sales dipped a bit, but there were still 553 handguns sold in Lancaster County that month.
  • In early April, one person was killed and at least two others injured in a shooting after police broke up a large gathering of people in an Omaha park.

New Hampshire

  • Concord saw domestic disturbance calls on the rise as early as April 14, with 38% more calls coming in compared to the rate before stay-at-home orders were in effect.
  • All calls for service dipped by 40% between the middle of March and early April, compared to 2019.

New Jersey

  • Newark reported 12 fewer violent crimes per 100,000 residents between March 16 and April 12, compared to the same timeframe in 2019.
  • New Jersey saw an overall 25% decrease in crime year over year after the first month in quarantine.
  • Shootings in the Garden State were down 18% for the first quarter of the year, compared to the same time period in 2019.
  • Despite stay-at-home-orders police report no downturn in deaths caused by car crashes.

New Mexico

  • Crime in Albuquerque hasn’t seen huge changes due to the pandemic. While residential burglaries are down, commercial burglaries have risen. Murders remain on track with previous years, and the city hasn’t yet seen a spike in domestic violence calls.

North Dakota

Ohio

  • In the first 30 days of Ohio’s stay-at-home order, Cincinnati saw an upswing in murders and a downturn in domestic violence calls.
  • A spike in Cincinnati’s homicide rate is reported across the board, though the extent of the increase is up for debate—some news outlets claim a 270% jump and others indicate a 115% rise.
  • Other crimes that have increased in Cincinnati year over year include a 31% spike each in auto thefts and robberies, and a 20% rise in aggravated assaults. Burglaries decreased by 2.5%, rape went down by 30%, and car break-ins are down nearly 17%.

Oklahoma

  • On April 16, the director of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation told lawmakers that the crime rate in the state has been relatively unchanged during the pandemic lockdown.
  • While violent crime calls remain flat, petty theft has seen a bump—although the jump is being attributed to a change in what qualifies as a felony theft rather than any coronavirus restrictions.

Oregon

  • On May 1, Portland law enforcement officials reported that shootings in the city are roughly 25% higher year over year.
  • Right after the state’s stay-at-home order was issued, Portland saw a slight dip in crime, but burglary arrests are starting to climb. There were four burglaries reported during the week of March 15 compared to 17 reported the week of April 19.
  • Washington County has seen a rise in property crime and officials are linking the trend to the state’s pandemic state of emergency. In response, the Washington County DA plans to charge some misdemeanor thefts as felonies in an attempt to curb so-called “covid thieves.”

Rhode Island

  • Unemployment scams have hit Rhode Island hard. The state Department of Labor and Training and the FBI are investigating hundreds of fraudulent claims among the more than 200,000 legitimate claims from workers hit by the pandemic fallout.
  • As of April 27, there were 29 Rhode Island police officers who were off-duty because of the novel coronavirus. Eight were positive for COVID-19, and the others were either waiting for test results or to be tested.
  • A man in Pawtucket robbed a convenience store wearing the recommended face mask and gloves—blending in as a regular, “good citizen” during the pandemic.

South Carolina

  • Domestic violence incidents have increased since the onset of the pandemic. The Richland County Sheriff’s Department reported 47 calls between March 15 and April 20—a 51% increase compared to the same period last year.
  • Columbia police had 63 domestic violence calls between March 22 and April 20, versus 60 during the same timeframe in 2019.
  • Sistercare, a domestic violence counseling service, saw 66% more calls in April than usual.

South Dakota

  • Native American tribes are clashing with the governor over checkpoints established on state and federal highways in an effort to keep the novel coronavirus out of reservations.
  • The Oglala and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes say they are trying to protect the health of their families, but the state says it’s unlawful to block the free flow of traffic on these roadways.
  • As of May 24, the checkpoints remain and the governor has made little official headway in her effort to get them removed, despite official letters and threats of legal action.
“I would rather, when this is all over, be in court or be criticized for overreacting or doing too much than I would to live the rest of my life knowing somebody was hurt or somebody passed away unnecessarily.” —Remi Bald Eagle, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe

Tennessee

  • Marsy's Law, landmark legislation designed to strengthen the rights of crime victims in Tennessee, has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak. State legislators will take the law up again when they reconvene in January 2021.
  • Nashville saw a 250% jump in homicides during the initial weeks of stay-at-home orders, compared to the same period last year. There were four homicides between March 16 and April 12 last year, compared to 14 this year.
  • In the midst of the pandemic, Nashville's government and police get high ratings from the public. The police department's approval rating is 86% so far this year—an increase over 2019 ratings.

Utah

  • Overall crime in the Salt Lake City area dipped by 84% from March to April, according the Unified Police Department.
  • Domestic offenses have been on the rise, though. Salt Lake City family violence calls jumped 34% in April, compared to the same time last year.
  • Commercial burglaries rose 45% in Salt Lake from March to April.
Thumbs Up
Solve cold cases during quarantine

The Utah Department of Public Safety wants to put pandemic boredom to good use. The department launched a website with information on 400 cold cases and they're asking amateur sleuths to go online and see if they can help solve them.

Vermont

  • Police say that crime rates are rising again after an initial drop at the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. Vermont State Police reported a 29% drop in crime during April and early May—including a 47% dip in assaults. But as summer inches closer, crime is returning to pre-pandemic levels.
  • Shoplifting and intoxication have been on the rise, and police also report a rise in both assaults and property damage at hotels, specifically.
  • Crime has dropped around 17% across the state year to date.

Virginia

  • Virginians flocked to the roadways over Memorial Day weekend, after weeks of being cooped up inside. Sadly, the mad dash resulted in 8 deaths, 2,489 reckless driving citations, and 70 DUI arrests.
  • Those numbers are down from 2019, but only slightly. In 2019 the holiday weekend saw 75 DUIs, 11 fatalities, and 2,548 reckless driving citations.

Washington

  • Seattle had 32 more burglaries per 100,000 people between March 16 and April 12, compared to the same time period last year.
  • One Seattle precinct saw an 87% jump in burglaries in March, as businesses shuttered due to the pandemic. Overall, the city has seen 21% more burglaries.

Related articles and coronavirus resources


Sources

Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past six. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month testing and evaluating security products and strategies. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her work and contributions in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, HGTV, MSN, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips.