Amid COVID-19, ‘Stunning’ Drops in Crime Worldwide

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In Chicago, one of the most violent U.S. cities, drug arrests have plummeted 42 percent compared with last year since the city shut down amid the pandemic. One reason is that drug dealers have no choice but to wait out the economic slump. “The feedback I’m getting is that they aren’t able to move, to sell anything anywhere,” said Joseph Lopez, a lawyer for accused drug dealers. Chicago’s crime has declined 10 percent during the pandemic, a trend playing out globally as cities report stunning drops, the Associated Press reports. Still, officials worry about a surge of unreported domestic violence and what happens when restrictions lift or go on too long.

Across Latin America, crime is down to levels unseen in decades. El Salvador reported an average of two killings a day last month, down from 600 a day a few years ago. Much of the decrease is due to tougher security policies and gang truces, but near-total limits on movement are driving it down further. In Peru, where crime totals fell 84 percent last month, a mortician who usually has up to 15 bodies a day napped on a bench after six hours without a client. In South Africa, murders fell from 326 to 94 in the first week of a lockdown. New York city saw major crimes drop 12 percent from February to March. While narcotics arrests are down, drug sales continue, said Rodney Phillips, a former Chicago gang member. “These guys already face poverty and death in these areas,” he said. “They might be selling more online now. But they aren’t going to give up just because of the coronavirus.” Chicago did see a spike in gun violence, with 60 shootings — 19 fatal — between Sunday and Thursday.

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