As many states begin to loosen coronavirus restrictions, law enforcement warns that crime may rebound. Even though crime rates across many major metropolitan areas have plummeted in the last two months, that could all change now.
Both violent crime and property crime fell on average across the United States. Compared to this time last year, there are fewer robberies, burglaries, assaults, and murders. That’s a good thing–but some law enforcement officials warn that we shouldn’t get used to it.
It makes a certain kind of sense that crime rates would drop. After all, an unprecedented number of people are staying home, disrupting normal life for everyone–even criminals. But while the average crime rate is falling in most places, some types of crimes are actually on the rise.
Home break-ins are less common at the moment, but burglaries of unattended stores are on the rise. Muggings are down, but auto theft is up. And, unfortunately, domestic violence is also on the rise as more people are trapped in their homes than ever before.
As things slowly return to some semblance of normal, some experts predict crime will actually spike compared to last year’s numbers.
To see why crime is likely to rebound, let’s take a look at Memphis, Tennessee. Before the pandemic, this Southern city was already a hotbed of gang-related crime and gun violence. Ranked the second-most dangerous city in the country, just behind Detroit, Memphis had a reputation for being unsafe. But now, things might get even worse.
That’s because the factors contributing to the high crime rate, such as poverty and unemployment, are higher now than before the pandemic. Memphis reported a poverty rate of almost 28% in 2018; that number is almost certainly much worse now. The same goes for unemployment rates in the city.
When people are broke, desperate, and have no chance of finding a legitimate job to support themselves and their families, crime rates rise.
In addition, many police departments are experiencing staffing shortages and struggling to get by on limited resources. For Memphis, that means trying to protect the city with a police force of just over 2000 officers–at least 300 short of the minimum needed.
“The dynamics of street crimes, of street encounters, of human behavior are changing because people are staying home,” former police officer Philip M. Stinson told “The New York Times.” Unfortunately, when people start leaving their homes again, there’s a real possibility that crime will rebound–hard.