Coronavirus-Related Quarantines and Closures Affect Crime Rates
Thu, April 22, 2021

Coronavirus-Related Quarantines and Closures Affect Crime Rates


Many countries today have restricted personal movements because of the coronavirus pandemic. / Photo by Sam Wordley via Shutterstock


Many countries today have restricted personal movements because of the coronavirus pandemic. Residents have been advised to stay at home, observe social distancing, and avoid large gatherings. Some businesses and schools were also directed to close as part of the efforts to slow the spread of the virus. But one question has been raised in light of the temporary quarantines and closures: will COVID-19 lead to a rise or a fall in crime?


Increase in domestic violence

Barberton Municipal Court Judge Todd McKenney said he observed an increase in domestic cases since the COVID-19 hit their country but other crimes are declining. Barberton is located in Ohio, US. Jury trials were suspended and courts in the city were closed but some court operations continue. For instance, domestic violence cases that McKenney presided over could not be delayed. With public places, bars, and restaurants closed, people are spending more of their time at home.  

The judge said that their court has taken hundreds of phone calls since the building where their courthouse was located closed as part of the coronavirus shutdown. “We’re doing as much as we can,” he added. McKenney also mentioned that crimes not related to domestic violence dropped.

In Douglas County, Colorado, domestic violence calls have also increased. Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Captain Wayne Hudson attributed the increase in domestic violence calls to the pandemic as it created more time for families to be huddled together longer. He said it’s like their expectation during holidays that the number of domestic violence calls would increase. Experts said that more people are suffering from anxiety and frustration because of the coronavirus and are seeking help. The county’s deputies shared that in just one week, there was a 50% increase in the number of calls.

Boys Town National hotline’s director Ginny Gohr via news provider WOWT 6 cited the words of experts, who claimed that there are a few more arguments or conflicts because it is something that people have not done before. For victims of domestic violence before the outbreak, the quarantine made it harder for them to get away from the toxic situation. Experts highlight the importance of communicating with family and friends outside the home. For example, they can have “code words” so that if a problem arises, they can use that code word in their conversation and consider an escape plan.

As part of the escape plan, they should have their documents and other important things in place in case they have to leave.



Property crimes

A 2019 study titled “Job displacement and crime: Evidence from Norwegian register data” comprised 1 million laid-off Norwegians in 15 years. It explained that out-of-work people commit 60% more property crimes, including vandalism, burglary, shoplifting, and theft in the year after they lose work. This is more than 20% more criminal charges compared when people are employed. However, Poynter's News University states that there are variables that people should consider before concluding that study. For instance, it did not look at millions of people who are staying at home because of a pandemic. The study only focuses on the combination of free time, need, and frustration, that increase the crime rates in Norway when people are not working.


One country that recorded low crime rates during the quarantine is the Philippines. / Photo by ARTYOORAN via Shutterstock


Reduction of person-to-person contact even when making arrests

There’s also another factor of low arrest rate and crime rate because police officers may not be purposefully making as many arrests as before as they are kept out of jails and areas where viruses spread more. In Philadelphia, for instance, they decided not to arrest individuals on charges like vandalism, burglary, theft, and narcotics, not because they encourage a relaxed justice system but they prefer to reduce person-to-person contact between the public and officers. In Denver, police are encouraged to report the crimes online if it doesn’t need an immediate response or no one is in danger. Their departments will then simply follow up on the phone call.

The Philadelphia Inquirer has also reported that the city shutdown did not slow violent crime in Philadelphia. The homicide cases in the city during quarantine stood at 86 compared to 66 at the same point in 2019, a 26% increase. While residents are encouraged to stay at home, city officials remain “extremely concerned” of the level of violence that is happening.

One country that recorded low crime rates during the quarantine is the Philippines, particularly in the National Capital Region (NCR). NCR police chief PM Gen. Debold Sinas said via CNN that the crime rate went down by 80%. They observed the “massive reduction” of crime during the first week of the enhanced community quarantine from March 15 to 20 with only 73 crimes committed compared to the 200 reported crimes in the same time frame last year. Declines in cases involving physical injury, robbery, theft, homicide, and murder were noted. Nevertheless, the factors considered in some states of the US are worth considering when studying the impact of the quarantine implementation and the country’s crime rate.



Crime rate by country 2020

According to demographic data provider World Population Review, countries with the highest crime rates in the world are Venezuela (84.86), Papua New Guinea (80.26), South Africa (77.02), Honduras (75.84), Afghanistan (73.26), Trinidad and Tobago (73.15), Brazil (69.48), El Salvador (68.63), Namibia (68.14), and Syria (66.91). It computed the crime rate by dividing the number of reported crimes by the total population and multiplying the result by 100,000. High crime rates are reported in countries with low job availability and high poverty levels.

Meanwhile, the nations with the lowest crime rate are Qatar (12), United Arab Emirates (15.52), Japan (15.91), Taiwan (16.22), Hong Kong (18.1), Georgia (20.18), Armenia (20.78), and Switzerland (21.18). Database company Statista further shared the crime rate in the US in 2018, by type of crime. These crimes are property crime (2,362.9 cases per 100,000 inhabitants), larceny-theft (1,695.5), burglary (429.7), violent crime (394.9), aggravated assault (249.2), motor vehicle theft (237.7), robbery (98.6), rape – revised definition (41.7), and murder and nonnegligent manslaughter (5.3).

Looking into other factors for why crime rates rise or fall as people are recommended to stay at home is particularly noteworthy. Some angles worth considering are knowing (1) if people commit a crime if they lose their paychecks, (2) if it deters crime if people are in their home, or (3) if crime rates decline when police officers are not charging offenders in a manner they usually do without fear of acquiring the virus.