As bad as the COVID-19 pandemic has been worldwide, there has shockingly been an upside to the virus’s spread. Some communities have seen a drop in their crime rates.
Twenty-five major U.S. cities, including Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. have all seen their overall crime rates drop by as much as 30 percent. This trend, sadly, has not been the same for violent crimes such as homicide or domestic violence. In fact, these numbers are on the rise in cities like Chicago and Houston.
According to University of Pennsylvania law and economics professor, David Abrams, because people’s routines have altered due to COVID-19, they have stopped participating in economic activities. This has meant less people are leaving their homes, which has led to a decrease in certain crimes, including aggravated assault and robbery.
Even as some crime rates are going down, homicide and shootings are on a troubling upturn. The cities that have seen the largest spikes include Chicago, Cincinnati, Fresno and Houston. Currently, however, it is difficult to see the whole trend as experts suggest trends over such a short time are unreliable.
In the case of homicide rates, doing a 5-year analysis doesn’t show the impact the pandemic has had in the last year. That said, experts are still paying attention to homicide and shooting rates and questioning why there hasn’t been a decrease during COVID-19 like other crimes.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot believes the situation is complicated. She says that COVID-19 was simply the catalyst for the perfect storm: people were forced to stay home, often out of work and, at the same time, the normal operations of the legal system were brought to a virtual standstill.
Texas’ pre-COVID crime increase
Unlike in other states, a 2019 Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) crime report showed that the state’s rate of violent crimes was already on the rise before COVID-19 emerged. Both violent crime and property crime were up (.5 percent) from the previous year.
DPS concluded that the contributing factors to the increase included:
- Increasing gang and drug violence
- Mass shooting events
- Repeat offenses by convicted felony offenders
Since 2018, there also was a 4.8 percent increase in the number of assaults on police officers, with 9 officers being killed on duty.
Houston crime trends
Across all of Texas’ largest cities—Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio—there were increases in violent crimes in recent years. Police attribute this increase to more pressure from Mexican cartels bringing increasingly more drugs into the cities, which has increased violent crimes within gangs.
In Houston, for the first 6 months of 2020, violent crimes increased 6 percent from the same period in 2019. Murders alone increased by 7 percent. Houston saw 133 murders in the first half of 2019; in 2020, they saw 143. Likewise, aggravated assaults were up by 21 percent (over 2019) through May; however, they declined in June.
Houston is an interesting case in that they have experienced increases in murders, while other crimes have declined.