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Report: Stay-at-Home Changing Nature of Crime in Indiana


Thursday, April 16, 2020   

INDIANAPOLIS -- The governor's stay at home order has dramatically changed the daily life of many Hoosiers, and it also could be behind recent shifts in crime patterns.

Researchers at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Paul H. O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs examined calls received by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department over the course of the unfolding pandemic.

Jeremy Carter, director of research and of criminal justice and public safety at the Paul H. O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, says social distancing recommendations didn't have as wide reaching of an impact as might be expected.

"I think there's a perception out there among people that if we're supposed to be staying home and people don't want to contract COVID that crime should just be down across the board, and that's just simply not the case," he states. "Crime for the most part is really stable."

The report shows that after closures of schools and restaurants, traffic stops fell dramatically while both domestic violence calls and vandalism calls increased.

Robbery, assault and vehicle theft remained the same, and burglary calls fell slightly after the stay-at-home order went into effect.

Carter says crime is a function of behaviors, but also interactions between people. Vandalism might be increasing because teenagers are out of school and bored, and traffic stops are down because fewer people are traveling.

He says the rise in domestic violence calls is not surprising, since social distancing creates greater opportunity for conflict in the home.

"The timing of this is pretty tragic with the death of the IMPD officer responding to a domestic violence call," Carter states. "It highlights the risks and the challenges that face police departments during shelter in place. These are volatile, dangerous situations to try and diffuse and manage."

Carter says the data is especially useful for law enforcement's resource-allocation planning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Police departments have a number of officers that are out sick, that are on self-quarantine," he explains. "They're trying to run as few officers as possible to spread the workload and to minimize public interaction and so forth. How do you use data to gain efficiencies with the personnel that you have?"

Carter notes the study results are limited to just two weeks, and says future research on crime numbers will cover a longer range of dates and can be compared with local data on new infections.

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