Coronavirus and crime: 62 police officers dead, violence and burglaries up in some cities


Every police administrator in the country and beyond is pondering an appropriate response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Police officers are dying from the virus. Thousands more are out sick.

Crime is moderate or declining “at the moment” for many cities. For some, violence and commercial crime continues. Three out of four Americans are under some form of a state or local lockdown.

Concern is expressed regarding the potential for violence, political extremism, fraud, domestic violence, child abuse, property crime, retail burglary, looting, and theft.

What’s below is an overview of media coverage of national and international crime and responses.

Police Officers Are Sick Or Dying:

According to The Fraternal Order Of Police, 62 (up from 54 when I wrote this) police officers have died from exposure to the Coronavirus, FOP. Thousands more are sick and quarantined.

In New York City, one in six police officers are out sick. In a department of about 36,000 sworn officers, 7,096 — or 19.6% of the uniformed workforce — were out sick on Friday, according to data issued by the NYPD.

Some 2,314 uniformed members and 453 civilian employees have tested positive for Covid-19, and 19 employees have lost their lives as a result of the virus, CNN.

The number of LAPD employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 rises. So does the number of officers no longer in quarantine. LOS ANGELES TIMES.  New Jersey will allow police recruits, retired officers, to fill gaps left by cops sick or in quarantine. Positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise within the NYPD

There are dozens of media reports documenting the impact of Coronavirus infected police and correctional officers.

The Shutdown Backlash Is Coming Soon-With A Vengence:

“The Shutdown Backlash Is Coming Soon-With A Vengence” is the title of an article in Politico but there isn’t a word about crime and justice; it focuses on politics and civil liberties.

But we all collectively understand that our national and world society and economies are undergoing profound changes.  There are reports that increasing crime is tied to emergence from quarantine.

Every expert from every article I’ve read about the Coronavirus and crime flatly states that violence and crime will return to previous or heightened levels.

Budget Cuts And Law Enforcement-Justice Agencies:

Looking at an analysis of crime and budget impacts on law enforcement from the last recession, it indicates that all agencies will be asked to reduce their budgets due to inadequate tax revenue.

It’s been reported that crime went up for over 40% of cities.

For The Moment, Crime Isn’t Going Up For Most Cities:

Probably the most authoritative report comes from USA Today after analyzing data from fifty-three law enforcement agencies. Crime is down. So are traffic stops. Domestic violence is rising along with noise complaints.

Reports from around the country (and the world) indicate that crime isn’t going up for most (not all) places: DallasPortland ORPhiladelphiaSacramentoSan FranciscoSouthern California, Bangor ME, New MexicoBusiness Insider (Crime down in NY and LA but crime up in Chicago), Georiga, Boston and Los Angeles.

Police chiefs are directing officers not to arrest people for minor offenses and instead cite and release them, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Journal states that arrests are down in cities throughout the country.

But There Is Rising Violence Or Commercial Crime In Some Cities:

Cops across the United States are struggling to maintain law and order as desperate looters and defiant partiers continue to ignore shelter-in-place orders given by their local governments.

Outlets report looting in all forms as small businesses seek innovative ways to protect their possessions and as local governments look to work with private companies to create potential air patrol options.

Violent crime has ticked upward in Detroit, just as police there are suffering from a rash of sickness due to COVID-19. 

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN)–Even though the Fresno Police Department says there are far fewer people out during the shelter-in-place order, officers say it’s clear: crime is not staying home.

Officers have been called to 30 more shootings than last year, when no emergency order was issued. Overall, violent crime is slowly rising, and with more than 400 inmates released in Fresno County due to state orders, officers don’t expect their job to get any easier – even when the pandemic ends.

Vancouver, Canada police have arrested 40 suspects in connection with commercial break-and-enters at shops shuttered by COVID-19. The arrests come following an uptick in commercial break-and-enters last month after physical-distancing measures were ordered by health officials in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus.

Most businesses are shut down right now, but the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said break-ins are spiking across the city. Commercial burglaries are up 13% from this time last year. Commercial robberies jumped 34% in the same time frame.

Officials in Chicago, Illinois, furious about consistent gun violence during the pandemic, plead with residents to stop shooting one another.

Shuttered stores from Boston’s Newbury St. to NYC’s SoHo to Chicago’s Magnificent Mile boarded up their windows in recent weeks. All the goods they’re holding are sitting Dolces for thieves—or so high-end retailers seem to think. In NYC, reports of commercial property burglaries increased 75% annually in the 19-day period ending March 31, per NYPD data.

But the Bling Ring isn’t out of retirement. Thefts actually spiked at essential establishments like grocery stores and restaurants. Burglaries of grocery stores and bodegas rose 400% annually in the March 12–31 period. Thefts at restaurants nearly doubled in the same period.

Most thieves pilfered cash, electronics, and consumables like food and alcohol—not luxury handbags, according to the Morning Brew .

New York City, under a coronavirus lockdown, saw small increases in murders and burglaries in the past week, while overall crime dropped. The city saw five murders during the week that ended on Sunday, up from one the week before, according to data released by the NYPD.

There were also 204 burglaries, up from 173, or 18 percent, from the previous week, the department reported in the weekly updates made on the department’s CompStat 2.0 website, said the Daily Mail-UK.

In the rush to release defendants from jail, there was no plan regarding what to do with habitual criminals, according to Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who noted that burglaries in the city had spiked 20 percent as of April 2.

Other areas have experienced similar results, with the Wall Street Journal noting that reports of crimes against businesses are up by 75 percent in New York City since the coronavirus shutdown.

Fewer people in Washington, D.C., are being robbed, but more are being assaulted as law-abiding citizens and criminals alike adjust to empty streets, closed shops and altered routines that are throwing established crime patterns into disarray, reports the Washington Post.

Property crime is down 27%, though some neighborhoods are seeing surges in break-ins targeting parked vehicles.

The number of robberies has plummeted by more than a third. Violent crime has gone down 16% since early March, when residents began self-isolating. Yet assaults, including shootings, are up. The number of homicides is keeping pace with 2019, which ended with a decade-high.

Police Chief Peter Newsham said:

“I think that for our most violent offenders, this pandemic has not changed their behavior at all.”

In Detroit, there have been 67 homicides this year, a 68 percent increase over this time last year, and 173 nonfatal shootings, up 37 percent, reports the Detroit News.

Shootings are up for March in Jacksonville, according to news4jax.

Crime is up in St. Louis, says KSDK.

There are still more people dying in Baltimore from gunshot wounds than the coronavirus pandemic, a trend that “social distancing” hasn’t slowed down very much. It’s gotten so bad that the mayor felt compelled to beg the gangs to stop shooting people so they can save hospital beds for the COVID-19 patients.

City Journal. reports:

“Even as the Covid-19 pandemic unfolds, crime in Philadelphia has increased overall, despite a slight dip during the city’s first full week of shutdowns.”

CNBC reported:

“South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to take action after a wave of gender-based violence, robbery and vandalism across the country. Since a nationwide lockdown was announced on March 27 in a bid to curtail the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, 148 people have been arrested and charged with crimes relating to gender-based violence.

Dozens of schools have been burgled, trashed or burnt to the ground and state-owned utility Eskom has reported an increase in cable theft and vandalism, further disrupting an already overburdened power supply.”

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) have said there have been thefts of oxygen canisters from hospitals and raids on food banks. Gangs have been targeting older people at home, appearing with official looking badges to take money to do their shopping, and then disappearing.

There have also been a spate of reports of reports of people knocking on doors to sell fake hand sanitiser, face masks and even testing kits, as reported in IndependentUK.

There are endless media reports of citizens buying guns and ammunition. People are uncertain as to what’s happening. Uncertainty breeds fear. Fear prompts overreaction.

Domestic Violence and Child Abuse:

Forbes reported:

“U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has urged ‘peace at home’ and called for governments to prioritize safeguards against domestic violence in their COVID-19 response plans, as he warned that calls to support services have surged in some countries.”

Similarly, HuffPost said:

“Children face a heightened risk for sexual abuse during this time, child advocates told HuffPost. Scott Berkowitz, president of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, said RAINN has seen an uptick in minors reporting sexual violence in March, the month most shelter-in-place orders were implemented across the country.

‘Last month, for the first time ever, a majority of RAINN’s sexual abuse hotline users were minors,” he told HuffPost.'”

National Post said:

“There are reports of increasing burglaries and domestic violence in Canadian cities but overall crime is down.”

The Guardian-UK reported on Mexico:

“A major shootout between rival drug gangs has killed 19 people in the northern Mexico border state of Chihuahua, officials say. The state prosecutors’ office said on Saturday that 18 corpses, two grenades, vehicles and guns were found at the scene of the clash in the hamlet of Chuchuichupa the township of Madera.”

A quarantine, with strict restraining measures, would result in fewer people in the streets, hence fewer robberies, probably fewer murders and burglaries; but when the social isolation ends, violence will undoubtedly return, according to Mexico-InternationalBusinessTimes.

Increasing Fraud, according to ABC News:

“As the country grapples with the burgeoning coronavirus pandemic, cybersecurity experts are warning that employees working from home are increasingly being targeted by aggressive cyber criminals trying to capitalize on their unfamiliarity with remote work.

The dark web is buzzing with coronavirus-related activity, experts said, with hackers selling other hackers COVID-19 scam “kits” complete with fraudulent email templates to target workers at home.”

Drug Traffickers Having Problems With Distribution:

There are an endless array of newspaper articles and media reports stating that the illicit drug supply is greatly compromised by quarantine orders, Wall Street Journal. Prices are going up. This could have a profound impact on interpersonal and stanger to stranger crime, according to Drugs And Crime.

Organized Crime: 

But before you shed any tears for the earth’s mobsters, their stock market is climbing again, as new opportunities are emerging, thanks to the pandemic—opportunities that may even be long-term. Think of mafia groups as viruses themselves, always aggressively adapting and morphing to infect societies for power and profit, says Forbes.

Violent Extremists-Hate Crimes: 

There are concerns regarding attacks on Asian Americans, reports The Blaze.

ABC News reported:

“A Department of Homeland Security memo sent to law enforcement officials around the country warns that violent extremists could seek to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic by carrying out attacks against the U.S.

‘Violent extremists probably are seeking to exploit public fears associated with the spread of COVID-19 to incite violence, intimidate targets and promote their ideologies, and we assess these efforts will intensify in the coming months,’ according to the intelligence bulletin, compiled by the agency’s Counterterrorism Mission Center and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office.”

US Prisons:

There are endless stories from TheMarshallProject documenting the release of jail and prison inmates regarding concerns over infection and the stability of US correctional facilities.

A Florida inmate who was released from jail because of impending concerns nationwide over the spread of coronavirus in correctional facilities is accused of murder, as seen in USA Today.

Raleigh News & Observer reported:

“Coronavirus-fueled tensions inside prisons and jails are boiling over into riots, standoffs and hunger strikes, the Wall Street Journal reports. Officers at a Washington state penitentiary fired nonlethal rounds and used pepper spray to break up a demonstration of more than 100 inmates Wednesday night after six inmates tested positive there, officials said.

At Oakdale federal prison in Louisiana, a hot spot for the COVID-19 crisis behind bars, at least one inmate was sprayed and handcuffed last night after previously sick inmates were put back in with the general population, inmates and guards said.

Immigrants protesting unhygienic conditions in federal custody have staged hunger strikes and are defying guards, advocates said. In the federal prison system with nearly 175,000 inmates, 253 inmates and 85 staff have tested positive, and eight prisoners have died. The Butner prison complex in North Carolina has 76 cases between staff and inmates, the largest outbreak in federal prisons.”

International Prisons: 

From The Crime Report, conditions worldwide during the coronavirus outbreak have caused tensions and unrest from Latin America to Europe to the Middle East, the Washington Post reports:

“Outside the walls, ‘It’s a very dark situation for the families,’ said Mona Seif, an Egyptian activist whose brother is jailed at Cairo’s notorious Tora prison. China and South Korea have reported large outbreaks in their prisons. China has had 806 cases in five prisons across three provinces. Turkey is seeking to fast-track a plan to release as many as 100,000 inmates from overcrowded facilities, joining Iran and other countries that have freed some prisoners in response to the pandemic.

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Murdered officer's grave desecrated before headstone even placed

Holding Charged Offenders: 

Per The Crime Report and the Washington Post, Justice Department scenarios to hold inmates longer than normal because of delayed court hearings amid the coronavirus epidemic are being considered.  Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said, “Courts are closing and grand juries are not meeting. That means prosecutors may not be able to indict criminals before a statute of limitations expires, or dangerous criminals who have been arrested may be released because of time limits. Criminals should not be able to avoid justice because of a public health emergency.”

Help From The Department Of Justice:

Department of Justice Makes $850 Million Available to Help Public Safety Agencies Address COVID-19 Pandemic.

The solicitation, posted by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, within the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP), will remain open for at least 60 days and be extended as necessary. For more information about the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding program, visit

Increasing Violence Since 2015:

Violent crime increased considerably since 2015 per the Bureau of Justice Statistics (USDOJ), Gallup and the Major Cities Chief Association.  The FBI recorded small decreases in reported crime in 2018 and the first half of 2019, as seen in Violent Crime.

Before any of this happened, there were endless media reports of rising violence in cities throughout the country. There are cities with major crime problems, seen here in Most Dangerous Cities.

Officials in high crime cities are the most concerned regarding COVID-19 and disorder.


Law enforcement’s response to the uncertainty of the Coronavirus epidemic and the fear most Americans have during times of unparalleled stress will be a challenge for every police and correctional administrator. Crime is mostly decreasing with pockets of concern.

Possibly the biggest issue is rising illicit drug prices or availability due to distribution problems and compromised or disappearing drug treatment. With a mostly addicted criminal population, that could be a major concern for all forms of crime, including domestic violence and child abuse.

Police executives and officers have to make adjustments. Everyone understands that it can’t be business as usual. Communication strategies are key elements of the response.

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