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"Shelter-in-place rules, by mandating more time at home, are very likely to increase the volume of domestic or intimate partner violence, which thrives behind closed doors," said senior author Jeffrey Brantingham, a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Los Angeles implemented stay-at-home rules March 20; Indianapolis did so March 24. Both cities ordered schools, restaurants and bars to close March 16.
Brantingham and his colleagues analyzed calls for police service in Los Angeles between Jan. 2 and April 18 and in Indianapolis from Jan. 2 to April 21. The study also analyzed reported crime statistics -- different figures that reflect alleged crime -- through April 10 in Los Angeles and April 18 in Indianapolis.
Both cities had a statistically significant upticks in domestic violence calls after stay-at-home policies went into effect, the study found.
While the researchers expect the surge to taper off as people resume normal daily routines, they warned that numbers could rise again if a second wave of infections triggers new stay-at-home restrictions.
Brantingham noted that domestic violence is one of the crimes least reported to police.
The analysis also found a significant drop in reported robberies and burglaries in Los Angeles along with a moderate increase in vehicle thefts. Robbery reports were relatively stable in Indianapolis, while vehicle thefts were unchanged and burglaries fell slightly.
Both cities had significant declines in traffic stops.
"Overall, these shifts are perhaps less substantial than might be expected given the scale of the disruption of social and economic life brought on by COVID-19," Brantingham said in a UCLA news release. "Overall, people were still finding opportunities to commit crimes at approximately the same level as before the crisis."
The study was published in the May-June issue of the Journal of Criminal Justice.
-- Robert Preidt
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