Crime is both down and up in the post-pandemic era

Photo (c) Andrew Brookes - Getty Images

A new analysis shows violent crimes declined while auto thefts shot higher

While the COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating effect on many industries, there's one that was unaffected and even thrived: Crime.

A new study of crime trends in 37 cities released by the Council on Criminal Justice (CJR) shows homicide and most other violent crimes remain above levels seen before the onset of the pandemic.

At the same time though, some crimes declined in the first half of 2023.

Murders on the decline

An examination of homicides in 30 cities that make the data readily available found that the number of murders in the first half of 2023 fell by 9.4% from the first half of 2022 - a decrease of 202 homicides in those cities.

Twenty of these cities recorded a drop in homicides during the first six months of the year, ranging from a 59% plunge in Raleigh, N.C., to a 2% dip in Nashville, Tenn. Ten cities experienced an increase in homicides, ranging from an increase of about 5% in Seattle to 133% surge in Lincoln, Neb.

Lock up your car

According to the study, motor vehicle thefts, which began to rise at the beginning of the pandemic, continued to climb, rising 33.5% in the first half of the year. That works out to 23,974 more stolen vehicles in the 32 cities that reported data.

Seven of those cities saw thefts rise 100% or more, led by Rochester, N.Y., (+355%) and Cincinnati (+162%). The total number of vehicle thefts from January to June 2023 was up 104.3% from the same period in 2019.

While it’s likely that much of the increase is the result of thefts of Kia and Hyundai models, the authors said, rates were rising before those cars became popular targets. For consumers, it's contributed to the sharp increase in auto insurance premiums.

Other findings

The CJR study also found:

  • gun assaults dropped 5.6%
  • robberies were down 3.6%
  • a 5% decline in nonresidential burglaries
  • larcenies dipped 4.1%
  • residential burglaries fell 3.8%
  • aggravated assaults were off by 2.5%

On the other hand, drug offenses rose by 1% and domestic violence inched up by 0.3%.

“The decline we see across the major crime categories is encouraging,” said University of Missouri – St. Louis Professor Emeritus Richard Rosenfeld, co-author of the study, “but our country should not be comfortable with rates of violence that continue to claim thousands of lives each year.”

He recommended that law enforcement, policymakers, and communities redouble efforts to deploy what he called “a solid array of research-backed crime prevention tools at our disposal”

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