Los Angeles, Indianapolis Witness Spike In Domestic Violence Cases After COVID-19 Hit US

After the pandemic was declared in March, the U.S. government issued orders to enforce social distancing, closure of schools and prohibition of large gatherings. These measures affected crime rate and distribution across the country. 

Burglary of homes were reduced due to people spending more time indoors, not giving opportunities to thieves. However, domestic violence increased with more contact between violent family members and their victims in the U.S. 

Police have to be made aware of the impact of social distancing on crime to be able to handle the situation appropriately by deploying officers and allocating resources. It could also help police officers monitor public health measures that are crucial to beat the pandemic. 

Towards that purpose, a recent study led by researchers at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), examined the types of crimes that increased during the quarantine. The team focused on two cities, namely Los Angeles and Indianapolis, after the restrictions were implemented on schools, restaurants and bars from March 16 onwards. While stay-at-home orders were announced on March 20 in Los Angeles, it was enforced on March 24 in Indianapolis.

Upon examination of phone calls received by the police between January 2 and April 18  in Los Angeles and from January 2 to April 21 in Indianapolis, it was found that shelter-in-place rules caused an increase in calls reporting domestic violence. Researchers proceeded to scan crime statistics on investigations conducted by the police.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, both Los Angeles and Indianapolis already have seen significant increases in domestic violence calls to the police, and we know domestic violence is one of the crimes least reported to the police," Jeffrey Brantingham, the study's senior author and UCLA professor of anthropology, said in the news release.

The team applied advanced mathematical calculations to predict such incidences could decrease as normalcy is slowly reinstated. They said that an increase in domestic violence cases would return if COVID-19 cases multiplied manifold and brought on the need for a second national shutdown. 

Despite the magnitude of disruption to normal life, the overall rise in crime rate was lesser than expected, per the paper published in the Journal of Criminal Justice. In Indianapolis, burglary and vehicle theft remained more or less the same before and after the pandemic. In Los Angeles, reports of burglaries came down while vehicle thefts rose more than average. 

Not surprisingly, traffic violations reduced immensely in both cities.  Overall, people were still finding opportunities to commit crimes at approximately the same level as before the crisis," Brantingham added.

Domestic violence Domestic violence cases increased in LA and Indianapolis post the pandemic, a UCLA led study finds. Zorah Olivia, CC BY 2.0