When the COVID-19 crisis reached Indiana, closures, stay-at-home orders, and health information began flooding into inboxes around the state. Amid the pandemic, the faculty at the O’Neill School at IUPUI began making their own changes. Many looked at their research agendas to determine how they could also respond to the ongoing pandemic.
As COVID-19 spread across the country, governments began taking steps to address the ongoing pandemic and, hopefully, reduce the spread of the virus.
Jeremy Carter—the school’s director of research, director of criminal justice and public safety, and associate professor—teamed up with George Mohler from the Purdue School of Science at IUPUI and other colleagues from around the country to examine the impact social distancing has on various types of crime in Indianapolis.
Carter and Mohler suspected social distancing and stay-at-home orders could have a far-reaching effect on how much crime was happening in Indianapolis. The pair set out to examine police calls that came in to IMPD after schools began closing and once the state’s stay-at-home order went into effect. They compared these calls with those from January 1 through March 16, 2020.
“Despite the social distancing regulations, what we found was that school and business closures and stay-at-home orders didn’t have as wide-reaching of an impact as might be expected,” Carter says. “Instead, the impact on crime was very specific to the type of crime.”
“Crimes such as residential burglary may be lower because of increased vigilance over personal space and property,” Mohler adds. “But we may see increases in crimes like domestic violence because people are at home together for longer periods of time.”
They compared three different periods of time: January 2 through March 16, when schools, restaurants, and bars closed; March 16 through March 23, when the state’s stay-at-home order was announced; and March 23 through April 1.
The results of their study showed the following:
Domestic violence calls increased significantly after school and restaurant closures, then dropped slightly after Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order took effect on March 23.
Vandalism calls were up significantly following the closures of schools and non-essential businesses and the stay-at-home order.
Traffic stops dropped significantly after schools and non-essential businesses were closed and again after the stay-at-home order was issued. This decrease could be explained by an overall reduction in people traveling and the fact that officers moved to a proactive health approach by using discretion on traffic stops and minimizing unnecessary social contact.
Burglary calls remained about the same after the closures of schools and non-essential businesses but dropped slightly after the stay-at-home order went into effect.
Robbery, assault/battery, and vehicle theft calls remained the same.