How COVID-19 lockdowns reduced the number of daily crimes?

COVID-19 basically locked us all indoors. This had a lot of negative consequences, but sometimes it is better to look at the bright side. Interestingly, one of those bright sides of this pandemic regime might be crime statistics. Researchers at the University of Queensland have found that crime rates actually went down during the lockdown.

Usually hard times are marked with a serious increase in criminal activity. This, of course, is usually a result of economic downfall. People find themselves in difficult situations, which push some of them to do something against the law. COVID-19 and it’s containment techniques were terrible for some working people. But does this mean that the crime increased? Well, it turns out that it didn’t.

Criminals stayed at home too – crime rates during COVID-19 lockdowns decreased. Image credit: Kojach via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

Researchers analysed daily cases of crime in 27 cities in 23 countries across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Naturally, the global pandemic had a huge impact on all of these countries, including people losing their jobs. And yet scientists saw an average 37 % reduction in crime across the globe. Researchers believe that this improvement, which could be seen as a silver lining in all of this global mess, is actually because people stayed at home more

Auckland, New Zealand, saw just under 40 % of reduction in crime. New Zealand had a very strong and strict anti-COVID-19 response, which made this tiny island country somewhat of a positive example in this pandemic. People had to stay at home more to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Meanwhile Sweden had a much more loose COVID-19 response, even avoiding quarantine. And it could explain why one of its largest cities Malmo had the smallest decrease in its crime rate – people weren’t staying home as much as in New Zealand.

This study took into accounts such crimes as assault, theft, burglary, robbery, vehicle theft and homicide. And while all of these statistical categories saw a decrease, the situation in some improved more. Dr Renee Zahnow, one of the authors of the study, said: “The average reduction was smallest for homicide at 14 per cent and largest for robbery and theft at 46 per cent and 47 per cent respectively. Burglaries reduced by 28 per cent, vehicle theft by 39 per cent and assault by 35 per cent within this range.” But why did the lockdowns have such an effect?

Well, more people stayed at home, creating something that scientists call ‘natural guardianship’ of homes. If you are trying to rob a house which has people inside, you are more likely to get in serious trouble. Furthermore, fewer people on the street meant that street crime had to go down as well. Finally, law enforcement paid more attention to suspect activity as there were simply less people moving around. Now scientists want to explore the long-term effect of lockdowns on crime.

Source: University of Queensland

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