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By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski, Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Military University
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in many fundamental changes in life. Millions of people in the United States and around the world are subject to stay-at-home orders, which have had a direct impact on crime.
Since many cities are devoid of crowds, crimes of opportunity such as robbery, sexual assault, and battery are down. Because many people are remaining at home, there has also been a significant drop in residential burglaries and property theft.
A study by USA Today analyzed crime data from 53 police agencies in 24 states. The study found that police agencies have been experiencing significantly fewer calls for service and fewer reports of crime; also, they have made fewer arrests. USA Today also found substantial drops in crimes such as driving under the influence and drug cases. In some jurisdictions the decline has been as much as 92 percent.
A Change in Prison Protocols Has Reduced Contraband
Many prisons in the United States and elsewhere have changed their protocols due to the coronavirus. That has had an impact on criminal offenses. For example, many prisons no longer allow visitations. The ban has resulted in reduced contraband being introduced into the prison.
While street crimes and drunk and disorderly calls may be down, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in an increase in nontraditional crime.
Surge in Domestic Disturbance Calls
For example, domestic violence police calls for service have increased 10 percent to 30 percent as a result of widespread stay-at-home orders. Increased domestic violence crimes are to be expected when families spend substantial time together indoors and experience significant stress due to a loss of income, loss of job security, supply shortages, and uncertainty about the future.
There is a substantial risk of an increase in online crimes, too. Criminals that typically engage in street crime are likely to turn to in fraud-based internet crimes to fund their enterprises. For example, nations like the U.S. that are providing economic relief through stimulus checks are likely to see many new online scams. They may be impersonators claiming to be Social Security agents wanting to access personal information, such as Social Security and bank account numbers.
The coronavirus public restrictions have significantly curtailed street prostitution in different parts of the world. As a result, there is likely to be an increase in online prostitution sites and other internet sites that promote victims in the sex trade.
The scarcity of some supplies needed to increase safety has led to price gouging. As of March 17, the Attorney General of Connecticut had received 71 complaints regarding price gouging of items such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and toilet paper. This is consistent with past national emergencies. For example, as a result of the criminal activities following Hurricane Katrina, the Justice Department established the National Center for Disaster Fraud.
It is important citizens remain cognizant of these changes in patterns of crime to reduce the risk of becoming a victim. For law enforcement, this most unusual time is an excellent opportunity to be proactive in addressing internet-based fraud and crime.
About the Author: Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor at American Military University. He has engaged in speaking engagements in the United States, Central America, and Europe on the topics of human trafficking, narcotics trafficking, police responses to domestic terrorism, and various topics in policing. Most recently, he presented at the 2019 International Human Trafficking Conference. His expertise includes infrastructure security, police stress management, homeland security, contraband interdiction, and intelligence gathering. To contact the author, send an email to IPSauthor@apus.edu. For more articles featuring insight from industry experts, subscribe to In Public Safety’s bi-monthly newsletter.