Urban crime ranging from vehicle theft and burglary to robbery and assaults dropped dramatically during Covid closures as stay-at-home orders around the world cleaned the streets and ensured more homes were occupied during the day.
An analysis of crime reports from 27 cities in Europe, Asia and the Americas found that overall urban crime fell by more than a third while closures were in place, then steadily increased when restrictions were lifted. been lifted.
Thefts decreased on average by 46%, and vehicle thefts and daily assaults decreased by 39% and 35% respectively. Burglaries fell by 28% overall, while more minor crimes such as pick-pocketing and shoplifting fell by around 47% in the countries surveyed.
Manuel Eisner, professor of criminology at the University of Cambridge, said the declines were steep but short-lived, with the lowest crime rates reported two to five weeks after the lockdowns took effect. “After that the numbers start to climb again,” he said.
In London, robberies have fallen by 60%, thefts by 46% and burglaries by 29%. Reports of stolen vehicles fell 26% during the lockdown last spring and assaults in the capital fell 10%, the researchers found.
Working with Utrecht University’s Dr Amy Nivette and others, Eisner found that the tightest closures lower crime the most, although cities like Stockholm and Malmö in Sweden, which did not that voluntary recommendations, also recorded a decrease in daily flights.
Containment in Spain, one of the strictest in Europe, has transformed urban crime in Barcelona, with assaults down 84% and thefts down 80%. Thefts recorded by police in the city fell from an average of 385 per day to 38 under lockdown.
Analysis, published in Nature Human Behavior, shows how sudden and substantial restrictions on people’s mobility drastically changed the picture of urban crime and how quickly levels rose again as restrictions eased and normal opportunities for criminal activity returned.
According to the study, the closures had much less impact on homicides, which fell by 14% on average. This may be because many homicides take place in the home, but the way organized crime gangs have responded to blockades matters too, Eisner said.
In a January article titled Drug lords don’t stay home, Mexican researchers found that conventional crime declined during the pandemic, unlike organized crime, including homicides, robberies and kidnappings.
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 by 76%, 29% and 24% respectively during the locking. In some cases, gangs may have helped enforce closures or, in another way, imposed their own restrictions on the territories they controlled.
Professor Tom Kirchmaier, director of the London School of Economics’ Police and Crime Research Group, who was not involved in the work, said this confirmed suspicion that there was a strong link between the rigor lockouts and general crime levels. “If you can’t get out, it’s much more difficult to commit crimes,” he said.
“Having said that, the work I have done with colleagues has revealed that domestic violence among current partners and family members increased considerably, and that bicycle theft were quite prevalent during the lockdown as people needed alternative transportation.
“The big issue is what will happen after the lockdown ends, and the true costs of the lockdown in terms of economic and social costs in parts of the country will become apparent. My hunch is that we are going to take a shock – especially in the most disadvantaged areas – with ever higher levels of violent and property crime. “