Crime Rates & COVID-19
Although it seems like COVID-19 is winding down to an end, there is no question that the country has seen a dramatic shift in felony trends over the past few years. Many people assume that crime rates have gone down as more stay-at-home orders went into effect in 2020, and in some respects, they have, but this statement doesn’t give any weight to the intricacies of the criminal justice system and the many types of crime that have arisen during the pandemic.
When most people think of crimes rates going down, their minds jump to group related crimes. This is in fact true: while crimes involving groups, like vandalism, trespassing, and substance use have decreased since group hangouts have become limited during the pandemic, non-group crime rates such as theft, battery, and homicide, have largely remained the same.
The Prevalence of Domestic Violence
Although COVID-19 has helped to reduce group related felonies, there have been unexpected consequences of restricting group hangouts and spending time outdoors. The American Bar Association has found that because people were encouraged to stay inside for so long, domestic and interpersonal violence has seen an unfortunate increase in the last two years. The cause for this increase is that some people may be forced to stay at home with their abusers. Aggressive acts from their abusers may also be fueled by the rise in unemployment and financial difficulties following 2020’s stay-at-home orders.
This has been another impact of COVID that has led to a rise in felonies: financial hardships put on Americans during the pandemic has led more Americans to not vacate their homes even when they cannot afford to pay rent. Although many states have suspended forced move outs to protect those who cannot afford to make payments during COVID, in Arkansas, for example, Governor Hutchinson still had not enacted similar policies in June of 2021. In the state, a failure to vacate after 10 days of receiving an eviction notice was a criminal offense.
Is There Really a Rise in Felonies?
So, if this blanket statement isn’t necessarily the case, why do so many believe it’s true? Well, first, we have to acknowledge data limitations and the non-reporting of crimes. Often, crimes like interpersonal violence go largely unreported, and these rates of reporting have only dropped during COVID-19. There have also been major efforts across the country to reduce incarceration rates. For example, both the majority of the states and the federal prison system have enacted policies like issuing summonses instead of making lower-level arrests and fast-tracking parole hearings for those nearing the end of their sentences.
What Does This Mean for Legal Help?
So, what does this mean with regards to the law and seeking legal help? One of the most important things to come from these shifting trends in felonies is not to let this idea that crime rates are low prevent you from seeking legal help when the need arises, especially with regards to domestic violence and serious criminal felonies. If you need help, seek help. We as a country should also acknowledge these fluctuations in felony trends if we want to have any hopes of reducing them during the final months of COVID-19.
Overall, although some crime rates have gone down, like group related offenses, we must not ignore the rise in other types of crime such as domestic violence and failure to vacate. The criminal justice system is far more intricate than the echoed sentiment that “crime rates have gone down in the US because of COVID-19.”
Need Legal Help?
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