COVID-19 & Crime. Issue #1: CAP’s Perspective on Crime & Loss in the Age of COVID-19

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Call Out With NYC Crime TrendsThe COVID-19 pandemic is demanding everyone’s attention. Resources are getting shifted to address the new challenges and restrictions that are evolving rapidly. Even without the pandemic, security professionals’ jobs are difficult, as criminals get more creative. As always, CAP’s Analytics team is monitoring changing crime trends, law enforcement responses, and shifts in business operations. We want to bring you as much timely information as possible. This is the first article in a series of communications from CAP Index to help you face new realities. We may only be able to speculate at times, but we will do so along with other industry experts to bring you pertinent information to empower you in this challenging environment.  

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Here are some of the questions we hope to address in our series:

  • With many businesses closing or modifying hours, is crime more or less of a concern from industry to industry?
  • With social distancing, will violence go up or down?
  • With sheltering in place, will domestic incidents increase?
  • What are the implications for people working at home? How might things differ from one business sector to the next? For example, in healthcare, what will happen with rising tensions and increasing volume?
  • What about property crimes?
  • With reduced hours and closed locations, will theft decrease or will it be displaced to locations like grocery stores or pharmacies that have high traffic?
  • Will burglary spike at the closed locations?
  • What might be the changing dynamic among the frightened and frustrated customers and employees?
  • Delivery operations have been increasing and that trend is now rapidly accelerating. What do businesses need to do to protect employees and property in transit and at the doorstep?

Let us begin with a close look at recent crime statistics for New York City.


A Washington Post article on March 26th points out effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on crime in that jurisdiction. CAP’s team decided to dive deeper into these claims by examining NYPD CompStat data. Below is a table showing percentage changes in various crimes/boroughs from the week ending on March 15th to the week ending on March 22nd as examined in the Washington Post article.

Table with NYC Crime Trends from March 15th to March 22nd

It is evident that reported crime dropped in NYC as significant changes were introduced in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. However, this overall trend is not consistent across crime types and boroughs. In order to illustrate that, we shaded any upward trends red and used dark blue for any drops that are more significant than the overall city trend and lighter blue to point out those decreases that are smaller in magnitude.

Below are some of our initial conclusions:

  • Clearly, the picture shown in NYC as a whole is not represented in every single precinct. Increases and decreases vary significantly from one jurisdiction to the next.
  • Most crimes in Manhattan South, the tourist, entertainment, shopping, and financial hub of NYC, dropped much more significantly than the city as a whole.
  • At the same time, Manhattan South is the only area showing an increase in burglaries. With more people staying home, one could expect residential burglaries to drop and business break-ins to spike as locations close.
  • The increase in robberies in Manhattan North & South is somewhat surprising. With social distancing and even potential perpetrators staying home more, many locations, including most of NYC, have shown robbery decreases. Are food and other delivery people being targeted? Given that Manhattan streets are now far emptier than usual, is that putting those people who are out and about at greater risk than usual?
  • In virtually every precinct, petit larceny declined less significantly than grand larceny. Retail establishments where one can steal more than the $3,000 threshold for grand larceny are more likely to be closed during the pandemic. It is hard to shoplift $3,000 in a grocery store or pharmacy, where high traffic persists.

As stated in the Washington Post article, we do not know if these are short-term fluctuations or persistent trends. We will continue to monitor the NYPD CompStat data and provide updated statistics periodically. The situation is very fluid and we will attempt to explain any new trends in the context of developing restrictions and the responses of law enforcement and security professionals.

It is important to remember that the virus itself is directly affecting those protecting people and assets. Nearly 5,000 NYPD personnel (approximately 15%) were out sick as of March 29th. Police departments are adjusting their response models in order to protect their officers and communities from spreading the virus. Prisons and jails are being urged to release nonviolent offenders. Are potential perpetrators going to take advantage of modified protocols, reduced police workforce, and resources shifted to policing curfews and quarantines? Finally, what are businesses doing to protect their assets? Some luxury retailers in NYC have started to clear out their displays and board them up with plywood. How are others preparing? Stay tuned for answers to these and other questions.

Article by: Basia Pietrawska, VP, Consulting & Analytics – Steven K. Aurand, President & CEO – Walter E. Palmer, Executive Vice President

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