Residential Crime Trends During Social Distancing

Interactive Data of 70,000 Incidents from 703 Law Enforcement Agencies

By Research Team | Last Updated May 6th, 2020

In the nearly two months since social distancing measures were put in place around the country, Americans have seen drastic changes in society. The way we interact, shop, dine and work all look much different than they did before. The changes meant to slow down the spread of COVID-19 has changed something else too: crime.

When the pandemic came to the US, many were unsure what to expect when it came to the safety of their family. March 2020 was the second highest month ever for gun sales, suggesting Americans were preparing themselves for a period of civil unrest or lawlessness should societal norms begin to break down. A look at crime data since stay-at-home and social distancing measures were put in place suggests those fears have not been realized as most types of residential crimes have actually come down.

We compiled 70,000 crime incidents from 703 law enforcement agencies across the country, from January 4th through April 11th, organized the incidents by type.

Key Findings

  • Most crimes are down post-COVID-19, including burglaries
  • Domestic crimes are up 11%
  • The time of day crimes occur remains the same

Most residential crime types have come down, but domestic violence has increased

We defined a pre-COVID-19 time as Jan 5 – March 7, and post-COVID-19 as March 8 – April 11 for a comparison of crime, and then looked at the average weekly crime rate during those two periods. What we see is a drop in all crime types analyzed except for, domestic violence. Burglary and Theft were down 23% post-COVID-19, rape and sex crimes down 34%. Unfortunately with people being forced to stay home, domestic violence crimes have increased as many feared and are up 11%.

Automotive crimes are down 11% post-COVID-19, though car thefts in particular seem to vary widely by location. Many cities are reporting sharp increases in vehicle theft even with other crime types slowing, while others are seeing a decline. With people not driving as much these crimes are not being reported as quickly, making recovery tougher for police.

Type of Crime Change in Weekly Crimes Rate
Pre-COVID (Jan 4th-Mar 7th) to Post-COVID (Mar 8th – Apr 11th)
Assaults & Battery -3%
Burglary & Theft -23%
Rape & Sex Crimes -34%
Domestic Crimes 13%
Auto Crimes -11%

The time of day crimes are occurring remains the same

Another question we wanted to answer was whether the time of day crimes are occurring has changed post-COVID-19. Most home break-ins for example typically occur during the day, and violent crimes tend to happen late at night. The hourly distribution was analyzed to see if criminals are changing their behavior. Our data does not show much change in when crime occurs, even though more people are staying home instead of leaving for work.

While the slowing of overall crime rates is a welcome byproduct of social distancing measures, there are some types of crimes on the rise during the pandemic. Domestic abuse, financial scams, burglaries of shuttered businesses, and price gouging have proliferated in these past two months. As people continue to struggle economically from job losses and states begin to relax stay-at-home orders, some experts predict crime may rise again in the coming weeks. Crime also tends to increase in the summer months, so it would not be surprising to see an increase as time goes on, regardless of social distancing measures. The long-term effect on crime levels is still very much unknown.

Here is a map of all of the law enforcement agencies where we collected data for this report.

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