Car Theft a Major Exception to Pandemic Crime Drop

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Amid empty streets and shuttered shops, crime rates in some of the biggest U.S. cities have dropped, with some exceptions, Bloomberg reports. Car thefts and store burglaries are spiking in some municipalities even as crime overall — especially violent offenses — dropped in 10 of the 20 most populated cities, more than halving in San Francisco alone. “It’s just a reflection of reduced opportunities for these kind of events,’’ said Daniel Nagin, a Carnegie Mellon University criminologist. He said murders “often occur in public places in bars and things like that. With those kinds of activities shut down there’s less social interaction.” Car theft is an exception. In New York it’s surging, up 49 percent for the week ended April 12 compared with last year. Car theft was the only major crime to show an increase in Los Angeles, rising 11.3 percent for the 28 days ending April 11. Burglaries are on the rise in New York, up 26 percent year-to-date compared with 2019.

Robberies and burglaries dropped more dramatically in Los Angeles than some other major U.S. cities, perhaps because it closed non-essential businesses and told people to stay at home earlier than other cities, said criminologist Charis Kubrin of the University of California Irvine. “Property crimes are crimes of opportunity and with most businesses closed, there are simply fewer opportunities,” she said. Each of the 10 major cities that provided data reported a decline in rapes and sexual assaults, with San Francisco posting the biggest drop — more than 50 percent. Most cities are showing a decline in assaults. Theft is down in the cities surveyed.  The drop in street crime may be followed by an increase in white-collar crime, such as price gauging and online fraud. “Opportunities have shifted from the street to online,” Kubrin said.

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